General Cancer

 Despite the enormous amount of research during the past many decades, cancer remains the second leading cause of death globally. According to the World Health Organisation, it is one of the most preventable non-communicable chronic diseases with up to 40% of all cancer deaths avoidable. [1] Certain cancers can be prevented through changes in nutrition and lifestyle modifications. [2]

Most antioxidants that are available in the market do not have much bioactivity beyond antioxidation. Keeping cells healthy through antioxidation alone may not be enough. Cancers develop through a variety of causes not only from cellular damage from free radical attack, but also from chronic inflammation, natural mutations in DNA, viruses and carcinogens in our diet and environment.

Tocotrienol: Natural Anti-Cancer Effects

While noted for its antioxidation properties, research has shown that tocotrienols have bioactive effects beyond anti-oxidation including the ability to suppress various cancer cell types in pre-clinical studies.

Over 200 research studies have shown that tocotrienols have powerful anti-cancer properties not found in alpha-tocopherol. These studies show that tocotrienols can induce apoptosis or cell death in prostate, breast, skin, pancreas, liver and colon cancer cells, while leaving normal cells healthy. [3] Scientists at Davos Life Science have shown  that gamma-tocotrienol could prevent the formation of prostate cancer in mice implanted with cancer cells by targeting not only normal cancer cells but also a very small group of cancer stem cells that were unaffected by chemotherapy drug. [4] Cancer stem cells are believed to be involved in the initiation and recurrence of cancer. For cancer to develop, it requires an environment that will support its growth. This entails sufficient blood supply that will carry oxygen and nutrients to the cancer cells. Tocotrienols have been shown to be able to inhibit the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) which can inhibit cancer growth and tumour development. [3] It has also been shown to reduce the propensity of cancer cells to spread (metastasis). [5] Further, tocotrienols display synergistic effects by enhancing the anti-cancer properties of standard anti-cancer agents. [6]

Phase I/II trials using tocotrienols are currently being conducted in castration resistant prostate cancer (gamma rich tocotrienol), stage IV breast cancer (gamma rich tocotrienol) and resectable pancreatic cancer subjects (delta tocotrienol from palm).

Read Top Articles

1.         WHO. The World Health Organization’s Fight Against Cancer Strategies that Prevent Cure and Care. 2007.

2.         Desmond S. Diet and cancer–should we change what we eat? West J Med, 1987;146(1): 73-8.

3.         Aggarwal BB, Prasad SC and Kannappan R. Tocotrienols, the vitamin E of the 21st century: its potential against cancer and other chronic diseases. Biochem Pharmacol. 80(11):1613-31.

4.         Luk SU, et al. Gamma-tocotrienol as an effective agent in targeting prostate cancer stem cell-like population. Int J Cancer, 2011;128(9):2182-91.

5.         Yap WN, Han HY, Lee DT, Ling MT, Wong YC and Yap YL. Gamma-tocotrienol suppresses prostate cancer cell proliferation and invasion through multiple-signalling pathways.Br J Cancer, 2008;99(11):1832-41.

6.         Sylvester PW. Synergistic anticancer effects of combined gamma-tocotrienol with statin or receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor treatment. Genes Nutr, 2012. 7(1):63-74.