Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women, carrying with it a dismal prognosis despite advances in surgery and adjuvant treatment. As with other cancers, pancreatic cancer is closely associated with chronic inflammatory conditions, obesity, smoking and antioxidant deficiencies. [1] Current treatment modalities remain limited creating a search for novel preventive and treatment options. Recently, there is a growing interest on food-based approaches for reducing the risk of pancreatic cancer. [2]

 Early phase pancreatic cancer trial and tocotrienols

Results from a phase I clinical trial of tocotrienol was carried out on patients with pancreatic cancer by researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center in the United States. For a period of two weeks prior to surgery, subjects received delta- tocotrienol derived from palm at various dose levels. This oral treatment was given pre-surgery to examine the effect of tocotrienol on the resected pancreatic cancer tumours. Initial results revealed that tocotrienol was able to increase cell death in some of the pancreatic cancer tumours with no toxicity. They also found increased expression of p27, an important kinase inhibitor involved in the regulation of the cell cycle suggesting tocotrienol’s potential in the treatment of certain pancreatic cancer types.[3] Further, results from the study showed that oral intake of tocotrienol at escalating dose levels of up to 3200 mg per day for two weeks was well tolerated with no associated severe adverse effects.


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1.         Erkan M, et al. Tumor microenvironment and progression of pancreatic cancer. Exp Oncol, 2010;32(3):128-31.

2.         Johnson J and de Mejia EG. Dietary factors and pancreatic cancer: the role of food bioactive compounds. Mol Nutr Food Res, 2011;55(1): 58-73.

3.         Springett G NA, Helm J, Hutchinson T, et alA phase I dose-escalation study of the safety, PK, and PD of vitamin E _-tocotrienol administered to subjects with resectable pancreatic exocrine neoplasia.The 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR). 2011. Florida, USA.