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Experimental Drug Fights Prostate Cancer

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In mice, an investigational agent called VN/14-1 proved effective in treating human prostate cancer, say researchers at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

The five-week study found that daily injections of VN/14-1 in mice implanted with human prostate cancer cells resulted in up to a 50 percent reduction in tumor volume.

VN/14-1 blocks the breakdown of vitamin A-derived retinoic acid, the researchers explained. The drug appears to tackle cancer in multiple ways.

"This potent agent causes cancer cells to differentiate, forcing them to turn back to a non-cancerous state -- which is what we expected it would do -- but it also stops cancer growth by arresting the cell cycle and pushes cells to die by inducing programmed cell death," senior investigator Vincent C.O. Njar, associate professor in the department of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics in the School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"These functions were unexpected and wonderfully surprising. I am not aware that any drug currently used to treat prostate cancer targets so many pathways," said Njar, whose lab developed VN/14-1.

The findings were to be presented Tuesday at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting.

Vitamin A is converted by the body into retinoic acid, which maintains the normal growth of cells. Prostate cancer cells contain five to eight times less retinoic acid than normal prostate cells. VN/14-1 is designed to block the breakdown of retinoic acid in cancer cells.

More information
The American Academy of Family Physicians outlines prostate cancer treatment options.

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