ITHACA, N.Y. -- A common chemical derivative of vegetables has been used by Cornell University researchers studying leukemia to block the uncontrolled cell division that leads to cancer.
The chemical is retinoic acid, a product of vitamin A, which the body manufactures from carotenes, the compounds found in a wide assortment of yellow-orange vegetables and fruits, from carrots and sweet potatoes to pumpkins and apricots.
Retinoic acid reverses the growth-promoting effects of oncogenes, the mutated genetic material that induces cancer, says Andrew Yen, a professor of pathology and director of one of the Cancer Biology Laboratories in Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
The finding, which to date has been restricted to the test-tube level, could lead to enhanced therapies for those cancers, including leukemia, that seem to respond to retinoic acid. The research also highlights the cancer-prevention role of carotenes.
"This is one more reason," Yen says, "to listen to your mother and eat your vegetables."
Yen reported the cell growth-arresting function of retinoic acid March 30 in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. More details are in an article prepared for the association's journal, Cancer Research. Previously, progress by Yen's laboratory in explaining the role of retinoic acid was reported in a series of articles in several journals, including Blood, European Journal of Cell Biology and Experimental Cell Research.
Retinoic acid is a metabolic product of retinol, the active form of vitamin A. The compound had been shown by other researchers to regulate normal cell growth and differentiation. Yen's latest results -- using transforming proteins to switch on proto-oncogenes, the precursors to oncogenes -- demonstrate how retinoic acid can use the same chemical-signalling cascades that cause cell
Contact: Roger Segelken
Cornell University News Service