Pre-cancerous breast cells reversed to normal health cells with vitamin A.

vitaThe trend in research is to explore the potential nutritional components in certain food and their ability to influence certain diseases like cancer. A recent study demonstrated that Vitamin A, found in sweet potato and carrots reversed pre-breast cancer cells back to normal healthy cells.

The research was published in the International Journal of Oncology and revealed that vitamin A only impacts on the pre-cancerous cells and works in a very specific dose dependent manner.

Sandra V. Fernandez, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University, and colleagues, used a model of breast cancer progression composed of four types of cells each one representing a different stage of breast cancer: normal, pre-cancerous, cancerous and a fully aggressive model.

The four breast cell types were exposed to different concentration of vitamin a and determined the strongest efect in pre-cancerous cells. Vitamin A is converted into retinoic acid by the body. The pre-cancerous cells not only normalized their cell appearance but also changed their genetic signature back to normal.

Dr. Fernandez’s pre-cancerous were influenced by 443 genes that were either up or downregulated on their way to becoming cancerous. All of these genes returned to normal levels after treatment with retinoic acid. “It looks like retinoic acid exerts effects on cancer cells in part via the modulation of the epigenome,” says Fernandez.

“We were able to see this effect of retinoic acid because we were looking at four distinct stages of breast cancer,” said Dr. Fernandez. “It will be interesting to see if these results can be applied to patients.”


Maria Arisi, Rebecca Starker, Sankar Addya, Yong Huang, Sandra Fernandez. All trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) induces re-differentiation of early transformed breast epithelial cells. International Journal of Oncology, 2014; DOI: 10.3892/ijo.2014.2354

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