Exciting new research hints at tocotrienol’s potential ability to slow pancreatic cancer cell growth

We’ve heard that a pancreatic cancer diagnosis might as well be a death sentence. Most victims die within just a few months after diagnosis. But there may be a new ray of hope, found in nature in just the last few years. This substance appears to be capable of at least slowing the progress of this… as well as other… deadly cancers.

In 2008, a research group from the University of Florida (Tampa) published an article titled: Delta-tocotrienol is the most bioactive natural tocotrienol in the prevention of pancreatic cancer transformation.1 Tocotrienols are more active forms of vitamin E, and like the tocopherol forms, exist in alpha, beta, delta and gamma forms; these researchers were reporting that delta-tocotrienol is active against pancreatic cancer in experimental animals (mice), where 100mg per kilogram inhibited pancreatic tumour growth by 80 per cent. (100mg per kilogram ‘translated’ to a 70 kilogram, or 154lb, adult human is 7,000mg, 7g.)

No toxicity or cell damage detected with delta-tocotrienol

The University of South Florida researchers followed up this study with another published in 2009, in which it was noted that the mice given these quantities suffered no toxicity, and no cell damage was detected microscopically. They concluded that clinical investigations of delta-tocotrienol against pancreatic cancer were justified.2

In 2011, another University of South Florida publication3 described one way (for the technically inclined, one ‘mechanism’) in which tocotrienols slow human pancreatic cancer cell growth by inhibiting NF-kB (nuclear factor kappa beta). They found that the ability of each tocotrienol isomer (alpha, beta, delta, gamma) to inhibit pancreatic cancer cell growth was directly proportional to its ability to inhibit NF-kB. As a result of this and other findings – including those about no toxicity even at these doses – they announced that they would be conducting a ‘phase 1’ trial of delta-tocotrienol in pancreatic cancer patients.

Evidence for delta-tocotrienol’s abilities continues to build

This wasn’t the first time that delta tocotrienol’s had shown some promise against certain cancers. Previously, two researchers at Texas Woman’s University (Denton, Texas) reported4 another mechanism of action by which delta-tocotrienol (and other tocotrienols, but not as efficiently) suppressed several lines of human pancreatic cancer cells, by inhibiting the enzyme ‘HMG CoA reductase’ (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl co-enzyme A). If HMG CoA reductase seems familiar to you, it’s because it is the enzyme responsible for cholesterol synthesis, the very same one that ‘statin’ patent medicines inhibit. The Texas researchers concluded that suppression of the ‘mevalonate pathway’ by inhibition of HMG CoA reductase ‘may have potential’ in pancreatic cancer treatment.

A 2011 publication (Tocotrienols inhibit AKT and ERK activation and suppress pancreatic cancer cell proliferation by suppressing the ErbB2 pathway) from researchers at the University of East Tennessee (Johnson City) reported yet one more way in which tocotrienols suppress pancreatic cancer cell proliferation.5 I barely understand these mechanisms myself yet, but I’m mentioning them to point out that there are actually several entirely natural ways (‘molecular mechanisms’) to suppress pancreatic cancer cell growth. Synthetic, thoroughly unnatural, highly toxic, but readily patentable and enormously costly molecules are clearly not the only way to suppress… and perhaps even one day cure… cancer.

Bergamot is another potential cancer buster

I’m no expert on natural molecular mechanisms of curing cancer, but to my knowledge at least one other very-promising natural substance, bergamot, has not been tried against this particular cancer yet. Even so, bergamot is very likely to suppress pancreatic cancer cell growth.

So how can anyone know if it hasn’t been tried? As the December 2012 Nutrition & Healing detailed, bergamot lowers cholesterol by inhibiting the enzyme HMG Co A reductase,6 one of the very same ‘molecular mechanisms’ by which delta-tocotrienol (and other tocotrienols) suppress human pancreatic cancer cell growth. So there’s an excellent chance that bergamot will do the same thing! Research is just getting started about the anti-cancer effects of bergamot. So far, it’s been reported to inhibit the growth of neuroblastoma cells.

Please keep in mind that no researchers have found that delta, gamma, or any other tocotrienols cure pancreatic cancer outright. But even so, it appears that they slow it down, and evidence suggests that bergamot may help too. When faced with pancreatic cancer, even slowing it down – without any adverse effects so far observed – is a big step in the right direction.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dr. Jonathan V. Wright
Nutrition & Healing

Volume 7, Issue 8 – August 2013

Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.

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