GAINESVILLE, Fla. Talcum powder has been used for generations to soothe babies diaper rash and freshen womens faces. But University of Florida researchers report the household product has an additional healing power: The ability to stunt cancer growth by cutting the flow of blood to metastatic lung tumors.
The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal in April, reveals that talc stimulates healthy cells to produce endostatin, a hormone considered the magic bullet for treating metastatic lung cancer. The UF researchers say talc is an exciting new therapeutic agent for a cancer largely considered incurable.
We found, to our surprise, that talc causes tumor growth to slow down and actually decreases the tumor bulk, said Veena Antony, M.D., a professor of pulmonary medicine and chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at UFs College of Medicine. Talc is able to prevent the formation of blood vessels, thereby killing the tumor and choking off its growth. The tumors appeared to grow much slower and in some cases completely disappeared.
Scientists have only recently discovered that talcum powder stunts tumor growth, though the mineral has been used for almost 70 years to treat the respiratory problems that accompany metastatic lung cancer. About half of all patients accumulate fluid around the surface of the lungs, a condition known as malignant pleural effusion.
That fluid can press down upon the lung, impair the breathing of the patient and cause the patient to feel very short of breath, said Antony.
Pleural effusions indicate that the cancer, which might have started in the breast, lung or gastrointestinal tract, has spread throughout the body. The prognosis for the roughly 200,000 patients afflicted with this condition is poor: Many die within six months.
To make life more bearable for these patients, doctors close the extra space between the lung and the chest wall, where the troubleso
Contact: Ann Griswold
University of Florida