"We have clear evidence that this chemical is directly causing cancer cells to die," said Kimberly Kline, a nutrition professor in the Department of Human Ecology who directed the research in collaboration with Bob G. Sanders, a professor in the School of Biological Sciences.
The findings will be published in the October issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine. They result from studies involving treatment of genetically identical mice, which were given the novel vitamin E compound either orally or by aerosol.
Based on earlier, similar findings by Kline and colleagues, the National Cancer Institute is funding national efforts to investigate the ability of this novel compound, RRR-alpha-tocopherol ether acetic analog (alpha-TEA), to prevent colon and breast cancers in preclinical animal models.
Mice in the study were treated with alpha-TEA for 21 days after an injection of mouse-derived mammary cancer cells that normally would have formed a tumor mass and spread (metastasized) to the animals' lungs. Regardless of whether alpha-TEA was administered to the mice by mouth (orally) or via breathing (aerosol), the compound was capable of reducing the primary tumor mass by greater than half.
In addition, the compound was capable of reducing tumor lesions (metastases) in the lung that were big enough to see with the naked eye. For example, only one of 10 alpha-TEA aerosol-treated mice developed visible lung tumor lesions in comparison to five of 10 untreated control mice. None of the treated animals showed any type of general symptoms of toxicity to alpha-TEA, which Kline chose for further study in 1997 from 50 candidates.