Scientists at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center have identified a compound that can prevent cancer in the laboratory. This compound could also be developed into an anti-cancer daily pill.
Although the synthetic compound, SHetA2, a Flex-Het drug, is still to undergo clinical trials, it could successfully stop normal cells from turning into cancer cells and even prevented the tumours from growing and form blood vessels.
In case the tests show positive results, scientists will finally be creating 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. 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," said Doris Benbrook, Ph.D., principle investigator and researcher at the OU Cancer Institute.
Flex-Het is mainly aimed at targeting abnormalities in cancer cell components without any damage to normal cells. This disruption causes cancer cells to die and prevents tumours from forming.
Flex-Hets or flexible heteroarotinoids are synthetic compounds that can change some parts of a cell and influence its growth. Scientists are studying many diseases and conditions for treatment with Flex-Hets, like polycystic kidney disease, kidney cancer and ovarian cancer.
Benbrook and colleagues have patented the Flex-Het discovery and are planning to start clinical trials for the compound within 5 years. If found safe, the compound would be developed into a pill, which could be taken daily like a multi-vitamin for preventing cancer.
In addition, this compound could also be used for preventing cancer from returning after traditional radiation and chemotherapy treatments, mainly in cancers that are caught in later stages like ovarian cancer where life expectancy is 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," said Benbrook.