Tocols represent a family of tocopherols, tocotrienols, and their derivatives, and are fundamentally derived from the simplest tocopherol, 6-hydroxy-2-methyl-2-phytylchroman, which is referred to as “tocol”. The most common tocol is D-alpha-tocopherol, also known as vitamin E. Tocols can be excellent solvents for water insoluble drugs and are compatible with other cosolvents, oils and surfactants. This review highlights the major developments in the use of tocols in parenteral emulsions for drug delivery, with a focus on drug solubilization, physicochemical properties, and biopharmaceutical applications. Tocol emulsions offer an appealing alternative for the parenteral administration of poorly soluble drugs, including major chemotherapeutics such as paclitaxel. Data will be presented on solubilization of paclitaxel, a key chemotherapeutic agent, and its corresponding formulation development, toxicity, efficacy and pharmacokinetic studies in animal models and humans. The breadth of the utility of tocol-based emulsions will be discussed and examples of specific therapeutic drugs and applications will be provided. As these formulations progress further in the clinic, the therapeutic utility of tocol emulsions is anticipated to expand.

Tocotrienol-rich fraction from palm oil affects gene expression in tumors resulting from MCF-7 cell inoculation in athymic mice

Nesaretnam K, Ambra R, Selvaduray KR, Radhakrishnan A, Reimann K, Razak G, Virgili F.

Lipids. 2004 May;39(5):459-67.

It has recently been shown that tocotrienols are the components of vitamin E responsible for inhibiting the growth of human breast cancer cells in vitro, through an estrogen-independent mechanism. Although tocotrienols act on cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner and can induce programmed cell death, no specific gene regulation has yet been identified. To investigate the molecular basis of the effect of tocotrienols, we injected MCF-7 breast cancer cells into athymic nude mice. Mice were fed orally with 1 mg/d of tocotrienol-rich fraction (TRF) for 20 wk. At end of the 20 wk, there was a significant delay in the onset, incidence, and size of the tumors in nude mice supplemented with TRF compared with the controls. At autopsy, the tumor tissue was excised and analyzed for gene expression by means of a cDNA array technique. Thirty out of 1176 genes were significantly affected. Ten genes were downregulated and 20 genes up-regulated with respect to untreated animals, and some genes in particular were involved in regulating the immune system and its function. The expression of the interferon-inducible transmembrane protein-1 gene was significantly up-regulated in tumors excised from TRF-treated animals compared with control mice. Within the group of genes related to the immune system, we also found that the CD59 glycoprotein precursor gene was up-regulated. Among the functional class of intracellular transducers/effectors/modulators, the c-myc gene was significantly down-regulated in tumors by TRF treatment. Our observations indicate that TRF supplementation significantly and specifically affects MCF-7 cell response after tumor formation in vivo and therefore the host immune function. The observed effect on gene expression is possibly exerted independently from the antioxidant activity typical of this family of molecules.

With increasing evidence suggesting the involvement of oxidative stress in various disorders and diseases, the role of antioxidants in vivo has received much attention. Chemically, tocopherols and tocotrienols are closely related; however, it has been observed that they have widely varying degrees of biological effectiveness. The present study has been carried out in an attempt to deepen our understanding of whether there is a significant difference in distribution between tocopherol and tocotrienol homologs to rat eye tissues. Rats were administered 5 microL of pure tocopherol or tocotrienol to each eye once a day for 4 d. Various tissues of the eyes were separated and analyzed for tocopherol and tocotrienol concentrations. The concentration of alpha-to-cotrienol increased markedly in every tissue to which it was administered; however, no significant increase was observed in the case of alpha-tocopherol. The intraocular penetration of gamma-tocopherol and gamma-tocotrienol did not differ significantly. Additionally, a significant increase in total vitamin E concentration was observed in ocular tissues, including crystalline lens, neural retina, and eye cup, with topical administration using a relatively small amount (5 microL) of vitamin E, whereas no significant increase was observed when the same amount of vitamin E was administered orally. Topical administration of tocotrienols is thus an effective way to increase ocular tissue vitamin E concentration.

Induction of apoptosis by tocotrienol in rat hepatoma dRLh-84 cells

Sakai M, Okabe M, Yamasaki M, Tachibana H, Yamada K

Anticancer Res. 2004 May-Jun;24(3a):1683-8.

Our aim was to evaluate the antitumor activities of tocopherol (Toc) and tocotrienol (T3) derivatives. At first, we examined the effect of these vitamin E homologues on the proliferation of rat normal hepatocyte RLN-10 and hepatoma dRLh-84 cells and found that especially T3 inhibited cell proliferation in dRLh-84 cells. Then, we examined the effect of vitamin E homologues on apoptosis induction and found that T3 induced DNA fragmentation and stimulated a rise of caspase-3 activity. In addition, T3 stimulated a rise in caspase-8 activity, while a caspase-8 inhibitor suppressed apoptosis induction by T3. We also examined the incorporation of vitamin E homologues into dRLh-84 cells. T3 was incorporated more quickly compared to Toc. These results indicated that T3 induces apoptosis in dRLh-84 cells and that caspase-8 is involved in this apoptosis induction. The difference in terms of apoptosis induction by vitamin E homologues seems to be related to their different rates of cellular incorporation.

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