Vitamin E and cancer: An insight into the anticancer activities of Vitamin E isomers and analogs

Constantinou C, Papas A, Constantinou AI.

Int J Cancer. 2008 Aug 15;123(4):739-52.

Current observations in the literature suggest that vitamin E may be a suitable candidate for the adjuvant treatment of cancer. Even though historically most research focused on alpha-tocopherol, more recent evidence suggests that the other isomers of vitamin E (beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherols and alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocotrienols) differ in their proapoptotic potencies. The main focus of this communication is the current understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulated by vitamin E isomers and their analogs during the induction of apoptosis. This review highlights that the mitochondria are the major target for the induction of apoptosis by vitamin E isomers and analogs and that the various signaling pathways regulated by these agents are likely to contribute towards maximizing the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis triggered initially by the mitochondria. Overall, the presentation of recent studies from the literature in this communication allows the drawing of the following important conclusions: (i) no direct link exists between the antioxidant activity of each isomer/derivative and proapoptotic potency, (ii) tocotrienols are more effective proapoptotic agents than tocopherols, (iii) synthetic modifications of the naturally occurring compounds may improve their apoptotic potency and (iv) vitamin E isomers and derivatives regulate caspase-independent pathways of apoptosis. The latter combined with the evidence presented in this review regarding the additive or synergistic anticarcinogenic effects obtained when vitamin E analogs are used in combination with other cancer chemotherapeutic agents, supports further research to design the most promising vitamin E derivatives and clinically test them in adjuvant chemotherapeutic treatments.

The oxidative metabolism of tocopherols and tocotrienols by monooxygenases is a key factor in the plasma and tissue clearance of forms of vitamin E other than alpha-tocopherol. It is well known that a commonly ingested form of vitamin E, gamma-tocopherol, has greatly reduced plasma half-life (faster clearance) than alpha-tocopherol. The tocotrienols are metabolized even faster than gamma-tocopherol. Both gamma-tocopherol and alpha- and delta-tocotrienol possess intriguing biological activities that are different from alpha-tocopherol, making them potentially of interest for therapeutic use. Unfortunately, the fast clearance of non-alpha-tocopherols from animal tissues is a significant hurdle to maximizing their effect(s) as dietary supplements. We report here the design and synthesis of N-heterocycle-containing analogues of alpha-tocopherol that act as inhibitors of Cyp4F2, the key monooxygenase responsible for omega-hydroxylation of the side chain of tocols. In particular, an omega-imidazole containing compound, 1, [(R)-2-(9-(1H-imidazol-1-yl)nonyl)-2,5,7,8-tetramethylchroman-6-ol] had an ED(50) for inhibition of gamma-CEHC production from gamma-tocopherol of approximately 1 nM when tested in HepG2 cells in culture. Furthermore, feeding of 1 to mice along with rapidly metabolized delta-tocopherol, resulted in a doubling of the delta-tocopherol/alpha-tocopherol ratio in liver (P<0.05). Thus, 1 may be a useful adjuvant to the therapeutic use of non-alpha-tocopherols.

Tocotrienol-rich fraction of palm oil exhibits anti-inflammatory property by suppressing the expression of inflammatory mediators in human monocytic cells

Wu SJ, Liu PL, Ng LT.

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 Aug;52(8):921-9.

Tocotrienol-rich fraction (TRF) of palm oil has been shown to possess potent antioxidant, anticancer, and cholesterol lowering activities. In this study, our aim was to examine the effects of TRF on LPS-induced inflammatory response through measuring the production of inflammatory mediators, namely nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)), inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-4, and IL-8), cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 (COX-1 and COX-2), and nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) in human monocytic (THP-1) cells. At concentrations 0.5-5.0 microg/mL, TRF dose-dependently protected against LPS-induced cell death. At same concentrations, TRF also showed potent anti-inflammatory activity as demonstrated by a dose-dependent inhibition of LPS (1 microg/mL)-induced release of NO and PGE(2), and a significant decrease in the transcription of proinflammatory cytokines. TRF at 1.0 microg/mL significantly blocked the LPS induction of iNOS and COX-2 expression, but not COX-1. This anti-inflammatory activity was further supported by the inhibition of NF-kappaB expression. These results conclude that TRF possesses potent anti-inflammatory activity, and its mechanism of action could be through the inhibition of iNOS and COX-2 production, as well as NF-kappaB expression.

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