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Retinoic acid, a de­riv­a­tive of vi­ta­min A found abun­dantly in sweet potato and car­rots, has been shown to trans­form pre-can­cer­ous breast cells back into their nor­mal, healthy state. San­dra V. Fer­nan­dez, Ph.D., as­sis­tant re­search pro­fes­sor of med­i­cal on­col­ogy at Thomas Jefferson Univer­sity, and col­leagues, eval­u­ated the ef­fect of retinoic acid on 4 types of cells, each one rep­re­sent­ing a dif­fer­ent stage of breast can­cer: nor­mal, pre-can­cer­ous, can­cer­ous, and a fully ag­gres­sive model.

Re­sults showed that the retinoic acid had a marked ef­fect upon the pre-can­cer­ous cells, not only mak­ing them look like healthy cells again, but also re­vert­ing their ge­netic sig­na­ture back to nor­mal. How­ever, cells that were con­sid­ered fully can­cer­ous did not re­spond at all to retinoic acid, thus sug­gest­ing that there may only be a small win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for retinoic acid to be help­ful in pre­vent­ing can­cer pro­gres­sion.

In ad­di­tion, only one con­cen­tra­tion of retinoic acid (about 1 mi­cro Mo­lar) pro­duced the anti-can­cer ef­fects – lower con­cen­tra­tions had no ef­fect and higher con­cen­tra­tions pro­duced a smaller ef­fect. After the suc­cess of this study, the re­searchers are hop­ing to de­ter­mine whether the amount of retinoic acid re­quired can be main­tained in an an­i­mal model.

Ref­er­ence: Arisi MF, Starker RA, Addya S, Huang Y, Fer­nan­dez SV. All trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) in­duces re-dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of early trans­formed breast ep­ithe­lial cells.

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