Vitamin A compound may help protect younger women against breast and ovarian cancers

New York, NY, Nov. 2 - Research by an international team of Italian and American scientists could pave the way for a new drug to prevent breast and ovarian cancers.

Led by world-renowned investigator Umberto Veronesi, MD, a clinical trial of women with early stage breast cancer suggests that the vitamin A compound fenretinide helped protect younger women against the formation of a second breast malignancy and prevented them from developing ovarian cancer.

"The effect of fenretinide differed greatly depending on the woman's age or menopausal status," said Dr. Veronesi, Scientific Director of the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, at a press briefing in New York today. "Our primary goal was to prevent breast cancer. While there was a beneficial effect on premenopausal women who were taking fenretinide, the trend was reversed in postmenopausal women who were treated with the vitamin A derivative. We also observed a statistically significant reduction in ovarian cancer in the younger women taking fenretinide."

"This exploratory research suggests that fenretinide, accompanied by circulating estrogens, holds promise as an effective breast and ovarian cancer preventive," he said, noting "this is the first time a single agent has an impact on these two major diseases in women."

Results of the five-year randomized trial of some 3,000 women who had early stage breast cancer (Stage I or 0) will be published tomorrow in the November 3 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The article was co-authored by Dr. Veronesi and 20 research colleagues in Italy and the United States, including Michael B. Sporn, MD, former director of the NCI's chemoprevention program who is now Professor of Pharmacology at the Dartmouth Medical Center in Hanover, NH. The Italian-based trial was funded primarily by the NCI with help from three Italian organizations, the Istituto Tumori of Milan, the National Research Council and the Italian Association f

Contact: Karen Borack (U.S.)/ Andrea Decensi (Italy)
American-Italian Cancer Foundation

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