OU’s Non-Toxic Drug Makes Ovarian Cancer Cells Respond To New Treatment & Undergo Cell Suicide

“Cancer researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center have found a way to turn ineffective new cancer drugs into cancer-fighters. By using their patented chemical compound, SHetA2, researchers tricked cancer cells into responding to new treatments and undergoing cell suicide. … [T]he compound will work with several cancers, including lung, kidney, ovarian, colon and pancreatic cancer. … [The] research team … patented the SHetA2 Flex-Het and hope[s] to start clinical trials for the compound within a year. …

Cancer researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center have found a way to turn ineffective new cancer drugs into cancer-fighters. By using their patented chemical compound, SHetA2, researchers tricked cancer cells into responding to new treatments and undergoing cell suicide. The research appears in the journal Gynecologic Oncology.

Doris Mangiaracina Benbrook, Ph.D., is in her lab at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. (Photo: Univ. of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center)

“This discovery means that we can use our non-toxic cancer prevention pill to improve treatment for people who already have cancer,” said Doris Mangiaracina Benbrook, Ph.D., principal investigator on the project. “All studies to date have not found any side effects of taking our drug, giving hope that we can prevent cancer in healthy people, and improve treatment for cancer patients, without increasing toxicity.”

The latest study looked at an upcoming class of cancer treatment drugs that worked well in experimental models, but proved ineffective against many human tumors. Dr. Benbrook and her team decided to test their compound’s ability to “fix” the problem. It worked.

“The new chemotherapy drugs are antibodies that bind to cell surface receptors called ‘Death Receptors.’ The binding of the antibodies activates the death receptors in cancer cells and causes cell suicide with little harm to normal cells. Many cancers, however, are resistant to the antibodies,” Benbrook said. “We’ve shown that SHetA2 treatment can make ovarian and kidney cancer cells sensitive to the death receptor antibodies and kill the cancer.”

Benbrook said the compound will work with several cancers, including lung, kidney, ovarian, colon and pancreatic cancer.

“It would be a significant advancement in health care if we could avoid the severe toxicity and suffering that late stage cancer patients have to experience,” Benbrook said.

The synthetic compound, SHetA2, a Flex-Het drug, was created by Benbrook with the help of chemist Darrell Berlin at Oklahoma State University. The compound directly targets abnormalities in cancer cell components without damaging normal cells. The disruption causes cancer cells to die and keeps tumors from forming.

Flex-Hets or flexible heteroarotinoids are synthetic compounds that can change certain parts of a cell and affect its growth. Benbrook and her research team have patented the SHetA2 Flex-Het and hope to start clinical trials for the compound within a year. If the compound continues to be found safe, it would be developed into a pill to be taken daily like a multi-vitamin to prevent cancer. This new discovery means that the pill also could be used to make patients, who already have cancer, better respond to treatment.

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Derivative Vitamin A Compound Prevents Ovarian Cancer In the Lab

…The compound, which still faces several rounds of clinical trials, successfully stopped normal cells from turning into cancer cells and inhibited the ability of tumors to grow and form blood vessels. If successful tests continue, researchers eventually hope to create a daily pill that would be taken as a cancer preventive. …”

“While researching new ways to stop the progression of cancer, researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, have discovered a compound that has shown to prevent cancer in the laboratory. The compound, which still faces several rounds of clinical trials, successfully stopped normal cells from turning into cancer cells and inhibited the ability of tumors to grow and form blood vessels. If successful tests continue, researchers eventually hope to create a daily pill that would be taken as a cancer preventive. ‘This compound was effective against the 12 types of cancers that it was tested on,’ said Doris Benbrook, Ph.D., principle investigator and researcher at the OU Cancer Institute. ‘Even more promising for health care is that it prevents the transformation of normal cells into cancer cells and is therefore now being developed by the National Cancer Institute as a cancer prevention drug.’

The synthetic compound, SHetA2, a Flex-Het drug, directly targets abnormalities in cancer cell components without damaging normal cells. The disruption causes cancer cells to die and keeps tumors from forming. Flex-Hets or flexible heteroarotinoids are synthetic compounds that can change certain parts of a cell and affect its growth. Among the diseases and conditions being studied for treatment with Flex-Hets are polycystic kidney disease, kidney cancer and ovarian cancer. Benbrook and her research team have patented the Flex-Het discovery and hope to start clinical trials for the compound within 5 years. If the compound is found to be safe, it would be developed into a pill to be taken daily like a multi-vitamin to prevent cancer.

The compound also could be used to prevent cancer from returning after traditional radiation and chemotherapy treatments, especially in cancers that are caught in later stages such as ovarian cancer where life expectancy can be as short as 6 months after treatment. ‘It would be a significant advancement in health care if this pill is effective in preventing cancer, and we could avoid the severe toxicity and suffering that late stage cancer patients have to experience,’ Benbrook said.”

[Quoted Source: “Chemical Compound Prevents Cancer In Lab,” Science News, ScienceDaily, May 14, 2008].

Additional Information: The foundational in vivo study performed by Benbrook et. al. involving use of various retinoids, including SHetA2, against ovarian cancer is entitled, Effects of Retinoids on Cancerous Phenotype and Apoptosis in Organotypic Cultures of Ovarian Carcinoma, Benbrook, D. et. al; Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 93, No. 7, 516-525, April 4, 2001. Click here for full text Adobe PDF copy.