Tocotrienols (TTs) are vitamin E derivatives naturally occurring in several plants and vegetable oils. Like Tocopherols (TPs), they comprise four isoforms, α, β, γ and δ, but unlike TPs, they present an unsaturated isoprenoid chain. Recent studies indicate that TTs provide important health benefits, including neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, cholesterol lowering and immunomodulatory effects. Moreover, they have been found to possess unique anti-cancer properties.
The purpose of this review is to present an overview of the state of the art of TTs role in cancer prevention and treatment, as well as to describe recent patents proposing new methods for TTs isolation, chemical modification and use in cancer prevention and/or therapy.
Recent literature and patents focusing on TTs anti-cancer applications have been identified and reviewed, with special regard to their scientific impact and novelty.
TTs have demonstrated a significant anti-cancer activity in multiple tumor types, both in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, they have shown synergistic effects when given in combination with standard anti-cancer agents or other anti-tumor natural compounds. Finally, new purification processes and transgenic sources have been designed in order to improve TTs production, and novel TTs formulations and synthetic derivatives have been developed to enhance their solubility and bioavailability.
The promising anti-cancer effects shown by TTs in several preclinical studies may open new opportunities of therapeutic interventions in different tumors. Thus, clinical trials aimed at confirming TTs chemopreventive and tumor-suppressing activity, particularly in combination with standard therapies, are urgently needed.