Research published in the International Journal of Oncology suggest that retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A, helps revert pre-cancer cells in the breast back to normal, healthy cells. Some clinical studies in the past have not been able to observe any benefit of vitamin A on cancer. This current research may help shed some light on this issue. It seems that the vitamin does not necessarily change the course of full-blown cancer. However, it does change the course of only pre-cancerous cells, and works at a very narrow dosage. Assistant Research Professor of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University, Sandra V. Fernandez, Ph.D. and colleagues utilized a model of breast cancer progression for this study. This is due to the fact that cells undergo many changes before they reach a point of being metastatic and fully aggressive. The model was composed of four types of cells that represented different stages of breast cancer. The four stages are normal, pre-cancerous, cancerous, and fully aggressive.
Fernandez states that because her and her colleagues were specifically observing four distinct stages of breast cancer, they were able to view the effect of retinoic acid. She further says that it would appear that retinoic acid affects cancer cells in part via modulating the epigenome. She hopes that these results can be applied to patients in the same way. On another hand, the fully cancerous cells had zero response to the retinoic acid treatment. This suggests that retinoic acid has a very small window of opportunity in preventing cancer progression. Additionally, the authors found only one of the different concentrations of retinoic to produce anti-cancer effects. That dose is about one micro Molar. No changes were provided with lower concentration and a smaller effect resulted from higher concentrations of retinoic acid. Dr. Fernandez’s next step will be to find out whether or not the amount of retinoic acid required can be sustained in an animal model. Also, she wishes to discover if the concentration will produce similar effects in animals as observed in the cell model. If the same effect is found, then next would be to test these observations in human studies. For now, we can at least increase our consumption of retinoic acid rich foods like red and orange vegetables and fruits such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and peaches.
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