News: AAAS 2008 Annual Meeting News Blog
Staving Off Cancer With A Multivitamin?
BOSTON -- Researchers looking for ways to prevent cancer are reaching out to older drugs and newer screening technology -- and may find a excellent ally in the common multivitamin, said speakers Friday, Feb. 15, 2008, at the 2008 AAAS Annual Meeting.
"It's cheap and it's something you can do something about, " said Bruce Ames, a senior scientist at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, speaking about multivitamin use. Ames' research suggests deficiencies of vitamins and other micronutrients such as omega fatty acids take their toll on human cells, which give in to the DNA damage caused by poor nutrition over the long run so that they can continue to meet their metabolic needs in the short term.
"You may look perfectly normal, but you're aging yourself fast" with a poor diet of refined, sugary foods, Ames said, although he acknowledged that much more work needs to be done to prove a direct link between vitamin deficiencies and cancer risk.
One recent success in cancer prevention has been the introduction of a vaccine against human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer, said Douglas Lowy, laboratory chief and principal investigator at the National Cancer Institute. But while the vaccine has proved nearly 100 percent successful against two-thirds of HPV strains, the expensive treatment is still out of reach for women in developing countries, which account for 80 percent of HPV-related cervical cancers, he noted.
Instead, several companies are working on less expensive HPV screening tests for women in developing nations, which could deliver results two to three hours after the test, Lowy reported. This could help women in their 30s or 40s, who may have already developed HPV infections, seek prompt treatment before cervical cancer appears.
Lowy said the social and religious controversy that has marked the vaccine's introduction in the United States is not an issue yet for developing nations. "As long as the cost is what it is, [the social question] is primarily an academic issue," he said.
Even as cancer researchers seek new avenues of prevention, older drugs such as tamoxifen and raloxifene are still relevant treatment options, said V. Craig Jordan, the vice president and research director for medical science at the Fox Chase Cancer Center. The two drugs, which selectively target estrogen receptors in a woman's body, were developed in Jordan's lab. His talk discussed "the good, bad and the ugly" of the drugs, but he suggested there are many ways to use them successfully.
"Our knowledge of how tamoxifen and raloxifene work is now being applied to develop new drugs that are selective male hormone receptor modulators, that could be used in men to improve muscle weight during sickness, but without stimulating glands like the prostate," Jordan said.
The research was presented in the AAAS meeting session "Progress in Cancer Prevention" on 15 February.