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June 5, 2007

ULM pharmacy professor awarded $618,000 to research breast cancer

Treating and preventing breast cancer in women could lie in rare micronutrients found in palm oil, and thanks to a $618,000 research grant, a College of Pharmacy professor and his colleagues at the University of Louisiana at Monroe will continue to explore that possibility.

First Tech International Limited, a major Australian pharmaceutical company with offices in Perth, Beijing and Hong Kong, awarded a two-year renewable research grant to ULM's Paul W. Sylvester, Pfizer Endowed Professor of Pharmacology, for his project, “Cancer Research and Health Project: Natural Palm Carotenoids and Tocotrienols.”

Four separate research labs in the College of Pharmacy will be utilized for this research. Sylvester will be joined by Drs. Khalid El Sayed, Sami Nazzal and Amal Kaddoumi, also of basic pharmaceutical sciences at ULM, in researching the capabilities of palm oil. The professors hope to characterize and optimize the anti-cancer activity of carotenoids, or Vitamin A, which naturally occur in palm oil, and tocotrienols, a rare form of Vitamin E found in high concentrations of palm oil, Sylvester said.

“The ultimate goal of this project is to determine whether dietary intake of palm oil and/or micronutrients (vitamins A and E) isolated from palm oil can prevent and treat breast cancer in women,” he said.

The possibilities of palm oil are not new to ULM’s College of Pharmacy. Sylvester has already published numerous laboratory reports demonstrating that tocotrienols and carotenoids found in palm oil display potent anticancer activity.

It's important work, Sylvester said. "Breast cancer is the most prevalent malignancy in women in the world. Although major advances have been made in early detection and treatment, there are approximately the same number of women dying from breast cancer today as there were over a 100 years ago.”

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