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Vitamin A analog is a potential lung cancer preventative with few side effects

The ideal substance to prevent cancer would block tumor growth without causing unpleasant or dangerous side effects. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis now report that a compound related to vitamin A shows promise in preventing or slowing tumor growth in mice prone to lung cancer. The compound, called bexarotene, doesn't cause the severe skin irritations that have limited the use of other vitamin A derivatives in cancer therapies.

"In the cancer prevention field, you look for drugs that can be given to healthy patients who have a higher risk of developing cancer," says Ming You, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Chemoprevention Program at the Siteman Cancer Center. "These patients wouldn't want to take a medication that makes them feel sick when they don't have cancer. So the drugs should be very well-tolerated and not cause harmful side effects."

In other studies, bexarotene showed some promise in cancer treatment. It extended survival in patients with non-small cell lung cancer, the most common type of lung cancer and one that has a five-year survival rate of less than 5 percent when diagnosed at the advanced stage.

In the current study, due to appear in an upcoming issue of Oncogene, Yian Wang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of surgery, You, professor of surgery, and colleagues demonstrate that lung-cancer-susceptible mice receiving non-toxic doses of bexarotene ended up with fewer and smaller benign and malignant tumors than mice that were not treated with bexarotene. The researchers saw a reduction of almost 50 percent in terms of total tumor burden in mice who were given bexarotene for 12 weeks after the animals had already developed benign tumors following injection of a lung carcinogen. Bexarotene also inhibited the progression of benign to malignant tumors by about 50 percent. The mice were engineered to have the genetic alterations seen in human lung cancers, so they readily develop lung cancer when given k
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Contact: Gwen Ericson
ericsong@wustl.edu
314-286-0141
Washington University School of Medicine
17-Jan-2006


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