Study: avoiding vitamins A, E might improve cancer therapy

CHAPEL HILL - Vitamins A and E, which normally boost human health in numerous ways, also appear to keep cancer cells from dying through the natural protective process scientists call apoptosis, new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill research shows.

As a result, giving patients those vitamins may prevent cancer cells from self-destructing and work against cancer therapy, scientists say.

Researchers at UNC-CH's schools of public health and medicine presented their findings Monday (12/13) during a news conference at the American Society for Cell Biology's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Drs. Rudolph Salganik, research professor of nutrition, and Terry Van Dyke, professor of biochemistry and biophysics, directed the studies.

"We believe this work is important because it may make cancer treatments more effective," Salganik said. "It suggests that cancer patients, especially those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, may do better on an antioxidant-depleted diet."

The scientist and his colleagues study reactive oxygen species (ROS), which play a central role in the series of signals that allow cells to kill bacteria and viruses, destroy toxins and trigger the apototic "suicide" of defective cells such as cancer, he said. Antioxidants, such as vitamins A and E, protect normal cells from the damaging effects of ROS but apparently also can prevent the targeted apoptotic death of cancer cells that threaten humans and other mammals, the new work suggests.

Other researchers involved were Drs. Craig D. Albright, research assistant professor of nutrition; and Steven H. Zeisel, professor of nutrition and pediatrics and chair of nutrition.

The UNC-CH experiments involved putting mice that were predisposed to developing brain tumors on specially modified diets that were either supplemented with standard amounts of antioxidants or were antioxidant deficient for four months. Researchers then carefully monitored the rodents' healt

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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