Each year hundreds of thousands of people find themselves victim to some form of cancer. Caused by either environmental toxins or genetic disorders, the occurrence of cancer has risen in recent years. A report created by the National Institute of Health estimated the overall cost of cancer to be 3.8 billion in medical costs. This includes direct medical costs, morbidity costs, and indirect mortality costs. Since all forms of standard cancer treatment are incredibly invasive (chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery) and plagued with side effects, alternate methods of treatment are always being sought after. One exciting new option is treatment with Vitamin E tocotrienols. Several initial studies have been conducted showing the potential for this vitamin in future cancer treatment plans.
In order for a tumor to grow beyond 1 to 2 mm in diameter, it needs some sort of independent blood supply. Without this, the cancer tumor cannot spread and tumor growth stops. The creation of new blood vessels is termed angiogenesis. Tumors are able to release growth factors that initiate angiogenesis which causes existing blood vessels to create new branches that supplies the tumor with a blood supply.
Studies have shown that one of the mechanisms in which tocotrienols uses to prevent cancer metastasis is angiogenesis inhibition. Delta- and gamma- tocotrienols are especially powerful in this respect. The other form of vitamin E, tocopherols, do not show this ability.
Breast cancer ranks second as the cause of cancer death in women. Each year an estimated 275,000 new cases and approximately 41,000 deaths occur in the United States. Standard breast cancer treatment involves the drug, Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is a widely used hormone therapy. Although quite beneficial in treating breast cancer, tamoxifen does have its inherent risks. Long term treatment with the drug increases a womans chance (albeit a rare chance) of developing serious health problems: endometrial cancer, blot clot in the lungs, and blood clot in major veins.
Several studies have been done on tocotrienols ability to treat breast cancer. A 1998 publication in the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer confirmed that delta-tocotrienols are capable of inducing cell apoptosis (cell death). Another study published in the journal BMC Cancer showed that gamma-tocotrienols in conjuncture with anti-cancer drugs reduce breast cancer cell growth in mouse breast cancer cells in culture. Yet another study showed that gamma-tocotrienols were able to prevent an implanted tumor from taking hold in a mouse specimen.
Prostate cancer is most commonly diagnosed cancer among men in the United States and the third most common cause of cancer death among men. Research done by Davos Life Science, researchers at Australian Prostate Cancer Research Center, and Hong Kong University showed that gamma-tocotrienols not only reduced tumour size, but also decreased the incidence rate of tumor formation by 75%. They compared this to a control group of mice, which had 100% tumor formation. This study is important because prostate cancer stem cells (the precursor to the cancer tumor) is resistant to conventional chemotherapy drugs and thus very difficult to manage.
Pancreatic Cancer causes 30,000 deaths per year in the United States. Pancreatic Cancer is a very potent cancer, with fewer than 5% of those diagnosed still alive five years after diagnosis. It is very rare and fortuitous for a complete remission of the disease to occur.
An animal study done by researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center have shows that combining gamma-tocotrienol with chemotherapy boosted the effectiveness of the drug in dealing with the tumor. In prostate cancer, the protein complex NF-KappB is hijacked by the cancer cell. NF-KappB normally controls our cellular response to stress and plays a key role in regulating the immune system. Once the tumor takes over NF-kappB it starts using its same mechanisms to defend itself. Drugs that can selectively target NF-kappB would be too toxic for our health. The only other available alternative for dealing with the tumor is with nutrition. Tocotrienols can differentiate between a cancer cell and a normal cell and thus alter NF-kappB accordingly.
A partial reason tocotrienols are effective against pancreatic cancer is because it can accumulate in the pancreas 10x more than in other parts of the body such as the liver or even the tumor itself. Despite this accumulation, a study in mice was done to show that no observed toxicity or side effects occurred from delta-tocotrienol administration.
Palm oil tocotrienol reduced cervical cancer in vitro. An in vivo and in vitro study showed suppresion of liver and lung carcinogenesis in mice. Gamma- and delta-tocotrienols were also shown to inhibit melanoma cancer cells in vitro.
The potential for tocotrienols to act as a natural source to deal with cancer is very exciting. Of course, more human studies need to be done before they become a standard form of treatment. One last thing to note is that a multimillion dollar grant by the National Cancer Institute was recently awarded to the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute to conduct clinical trials on tocotrienols effect on pancreatic cancer.
vitamin c and cancer treatment