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Molecular architects create new cancer preventives

Researchers at The Johns Hopkins University have developed a modified form of vitamin D and determined that it helps delay the onset and reduce the number of skin cancers in lab mice. Unlike vitamin D, though, the new compound does not cause calcium to seep from the bones.

If not for the calcium loss problem, large doses of vitamin D could be used to reduce the odds of developing cancer in patients whose medical history, genetic heritage, or environmental exposures put them at increased risk. Depending on the results of further tests in animals and potential tests in humans, the new compound and others to follow it may provide an important alternative approach to reducing cancer risk for such patients.

Gary Posner, Scowe Professor of Chemistry in Johns Hopkins' Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and one of the new compound's creators, will describe work to design and test the compounds at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C., this week.

In the July/August issue of "Carcinogenesis," Posner and Thomas Kensler, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, published results of tests in mice of four modified forms of vitamin D, called deltanoids or vitamin D analogs. The deltanoids were applied to the skin of mice also treated with a carcinogen.

All four deltanoids diminished the number of skin tumors without any significant effects on calcium loss or weight gain, which is usually adversely affected by vitamin D. The most effective preventive compound was a doubly modified "hybrid" compound that contained fluorine.

The new deltanoids are, for the most part, identical to vitamin D, which is normally generated in the skin during exposure to sunlight. In several areas, though, Posner and his students have given the compounds' molecular structures several small "tweaks."

"We call our work molecular architecture, because at the submicroscopic level we are a
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Contact: Michael Purdy
mcp@jhu.edu
410-516-7906
Johns Hopkins University
21-Aug-2000


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