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October 8, 2010

October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month celebrates 25th anniversary as treatment and prevention work continues at ULM

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and University of Louisiana at Monroe pharmacologists continue their research into a daily pill that may eventually lead to prevention of the disease in at-risk women.

Project Leader Dr. Paul Sylvester, ULM's Pfizer Endowed Professor of Pharmacology, in collaboration with Drs. Sami Nazzal, Amal Kaddoumi, and Khalid El Sayed, has been studying the multi-faceted uses of certain tocotrienols, substances naturally found in vitamin E that may protect healthy cells against the effects of carcinogens and suppress tumor growth.

A prototype capsule containing tocotrienol and suited for use as a breast cancer prevention product is ready for manufacturing and delivery to market, according to Sylvester.

The researchers have also developed an intravenous version of the drug for those already diagnosed with the cancer. Microscopic amounts of the drug were recently formulated that can deliver select doses directly into the breast cancer tissue, providing aggressive treatment while at the same time avoiding harmful side effects, said Sylvester.

"Provisional patents for these new tocotrienol delivery systems have been filed during the past year," he said.

Sylvester said a patient's best chance at full recovery may be an effective combination of treatment using low doses of tocotrienol, along with traditional chemotherapy. Along with the pending patents, Sylvester and the other ULM researchers have published numerous studies about their work seeking solutions for a disease that claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

The American Cancer Society estimates 40,610 breast cancer deaths occurred in 2009, the most recent year data is available. The vast majority of these deaths are women. According to the ACS, an estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed among U.S. women, while approximately 1,910 new cases are expected in men.

Dr. Sylvester's research into the link between breast cancer and vitamin E attracted the attention of Beta Pharmaceuticals of Australia, which has provided extensive funding for the Breast Cancer and Health Project at ULM.

"Dr. Sylvester's work with vitamin E derivatives has been very successful thus far," said ULM Interim College of Pharmacy Dean Benny Blaylock.

"If the clinical trials work out as well as the earlier research, medical science will have a therapeutic agent that acts both as a cancer preventative and as an anti-cancer agent. The College of Pharmacy is very proud of his groundbreaking work, as well as the work of Drs. Nazzal, Kaddoumi and El Sayed."

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