- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A
chemical derived from vitamin A can kill cancer cells, even those that
are resistant to other drugs, researchers said Wednesday.
- It is one of several such vitamin A derivatives, known
as retinoids, which have been found to act against cancer cells.
- But in a report in the Journal of the National Cancer
Institute, Dr. Barry Maurer of Children`s Hospital in Los Angeles and colleagues
said they had figured out the mechanism, and said the chemical, known as
fenretinide or 4-HPR, might be added to the mix of drugs given to some
- Fenretinide has already been shown to kill cancer cells,
notably cervical cancer and myeloid leukemia.
- Maurer`s team tested it in cells taken from children
with neuroblastoma, a kind of cancer of the nervous system.
- They found the fenretinide killed cancer cells and raised
levels of a fat-like molecule called ceramide. The more fenretinide they
used, the higher the levels of ceramide and the more tumor cells died.
- Ceramide is known to kill tumor cells, but scientists
have been unable, until now, the find a drug that raises ceramide levels
enough in the cells to kill them.
- The researchers said fenretinide might be used along
with other retinoids in treating neuroblastoma to maximize the number of
cancer cells killed.
- ``Therefore, should it be clinically tolerated, high-dose
4-HPR may form the basis for a new, ceramide-based chemotherapy,`` they
- Dr. John Reed of the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, California
said fenretinide is already being tested in humans. In a commentary on
the findings, he said knowing how fenretinide works may help scientists
develop even more effective drugs based on its action.