A widely available nutritional supplement has been found effective in preventing the formation of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or primary liver cancer in rats, according to researchers.
S-adenosylmethionine or SAMe was found to be effective in preventing the formation of HCC in rats, however, high enough levels of SAMe were not attainable to successfully treat established HCC. uring the study, researchers led by Dr Shelly Lu, of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, injected H4IIE cells into rats and found a 1cm tumour developed in the liver two weeks after injection.
A regimen of IV SAMe was started one day after injecting the cells and continued for ten days.
"Treatment with IV SAMe by continuous infusion significantly reduced the tumour size and significantly prevented tumour development after 11 days," said researchers.
Researchers found that if SAMe infusion was started after sizable tumours had already formed it failed to reduce the rate of tumour growth after 24 days of treatment.
This is because of a compensatory response of the liver to metabolize SAMe and prevent its accumulation.
"The observation that SAMe failed to exert any therapeutic effect in already established HCC is disappointing," said Lu.
"But whether SAMe can be effective in treating HCC in man remains unclear because this compensatory mechanism may not work properly in human HCC.
"Nevertheless, effectiveness of SAMe in chemoprevention of human HCC deserves study now," Lu added.
The findings are published in journal Hepatology.