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Health News Archive 167 - Prostate Cancer
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1 of 8 Forms of Vitamin E Kills Prostate Cancer Cells

Gamma tocopherol, a member of the vitamin E family, helps kill prostate cancer cells, according to a recent report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Previous studies indicate that dietary and environmental factors contribute to some cases of prostate cancer, while antioxidants such as vitamin E may mitigate risk. In a study conducted at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California, the addition of gamma tocopherol to prostate cancer cell cultures not only inhibited cell proliferation but also caused cell death.

The vitamin E family comprises eight structurally related forms, all of which are potent antioxidants. They are alpha, beta, delta and gamma - tocopherols and tocotrienols.  Alpha tocopherol is the most abundant form of vitamin E in the human body and in nutritional supplements, while gamma tocopherol dominates dietary sources.  Alpha tocopherol supplementation suppresses gamma tocopherol levels in the body.

In the Children’s Hospital study, gamma tocopherol demonstrated inhibitory effects on prostate cancer cells. Gamma tocopherol was even more potent in combination with another form of vitamin E called delta tocopherol. Together, the two forms of vitamin E produced cell death in hormone-sensitive—but not hormone-resistant—prostate cancer cells. Moreover, gamma tocopherol had no negative effects on normal prostate cells.

Gamma tocopherol exerted effects on prostate cancer cells by blocking sphingolipid metabolism, rather than through its antioxidant action. Sphingolipids are major structural components of cell membranes that mediate cell cycle control and cell death. By blocking the pathway for sphingolipid metabolism, gamma tocopherol deprives cancer cells of this required compound, ultimately leading to cell death.

The study results indicate that certain forms of vitamin E may be useful in preventing and treating some cancers.

Reference

Jiang Q, Wong J, Fyrst H, Saba JD, Ames BN. Gamma-tocopherol or combinations of vitamin E forms induce cell death in human prostate cancer cells by interrupting sphingolipid synthesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2004 Dec 21;101(51):17825-30.

 

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