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Vitamin E helps battle cancer

By Jade Bilowol, Australian Associated Press
May 22, 2005

A VITAMIN E-related compound may kill deadly cancer cells caused by asbestos exposure, says an Australian cell biologist who has already established its success in trials using mice.

Gold Coast-based Griffith University researcher Jiri Neuzil said alpha-TOS, which is closely related to Vitamin E, killed mesothelioma cancer cells in experiments with mice.

Most victims of mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that destroys a protective membrane covering internal organs including the lungs, have inhaled asbestos particles.

Dr Neuzil said alpha-TOS also halted growth of mesothelioma tumours, for which there is currently no cure, under a five-year study involving researchers from Australia, Italy and the Czech Republic.

He said the compound had also showed hints of suppressing breast cancer, melanoma, lung cancer and colon cancer tumours in animal experiments.

Dr Neuzil said alpha-TOS would ultimately be put to the test in human trials, which he hoped to begin within two years.

"It is promising but in the past many experiments showing promise in mice have completely failed in humans," Dr Neuzil said.

Alpha-TOS was "selective" because it pursued mesothelioma cancer cells but caused only minor damage, if any, to normal cells in mice, he said.

Dr Neuzil said alpha-TOS was orally ingested by humans as a health supplement but lost its promising anti-cancer quality because the digestive system converted it to Vitamin E.

To prevent this conversion, Dr Neuzil said alpha-TOS had to be administered intravenously so it could reach tumours with its anti-cancer feature intact.

He said he stumbled on the compound's promising qualities "by mistake" five years ago during an experiment when he substituted Vitamin E with alpha-TOS.

Dr Neuzil said he didn't know if the medical industry would take on alpha-TOS as a cancer cure because it couldn't be patented.

Symptoms of mesothelioma such as weight loss and chest pain may not emerge for up to 50 years after asbestos exposure.