WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, December 15, 2004 (ENS): The form
of vitamin E found in sesame seeds, walnuts and pecans
- but not in most manufactured nutritional supplements
- might halt the growth of prostate and lung cancer
cells, researchers at Purdue University have found.
A team led by Qing Jiang has found that gamma-tocopherol,
which occurs naturally in walnuts, pecans, sesame seeds,
and in corn and sesame oils, inhibits the proliferation
of human prostate and lung cancer cells cultured in
The vitamin's presence interrupts the synthesis of
fatty molecules called sphingolipids, which are components
of cell membranes. Healthy human prostate cells are
"This is the first time gamma-tocopherol has been
shown to induce death in lab-grown human cancer cells
while leaving healthy cells alone," said Jiang,
who is an assistant professor of foods and nutrition
in the College of Consumer and Family Sciences.
"This could be wonderful news for cancer patients
if the effect can be reproduced in animal models. But
because most nutritional supplements contain only alpha-tocopherol,
a different form of vitamin E that alone does not have
these anticancer properties, it may be better to supplement
the diet with mixed forms of vitamin E. The study shows
that the anticancer effect is enhanced when mixed forms
Jiang's research appears in the current online edition
of the scientific journal "Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences." It was funded in part by
the National Institutes of Health.
Jiang said the next step for her research team will
be testing the effect of gamma-tocopherol and mixed
forms of vitamin E on animal cancers.
"Although this discovery is promising, we do not
yet know whether gamma-tocopherol has any effect on
cancer in living creatures," she said. "We
hope that future research not only will clarify whether
gamma-tocopherol could have applications in human cancer
treatment, but also will show how we might supplement
the body with the vitamin to prevent cancer from developing
in the first place."