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UM Researchers Present Dramatic Cancer Findings


          Researchers from the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine have presented dramatic findings at a national cancer meeting that show a link between a very potent antioxidant that occurs naturally in the body, and the ability to kill breast and prostate cancer cells.  The antioxidant they have studied is Ubiquinone, more commonly referred to as Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10, and delivery of the therapy could soon  be as simple as applying an ointment to the tumor site. 

            CoQ10 is one of the most important antioxidants found in the body, and is used by cells not only to protect against free radical damage, but also to produce ATP,  a compound that powers every cell in the human body.  High levels of CoQ10 are especially essential in the high activity cells, such as heart muscle cells, brain cells, and immune system cells.  As we age, CoQ10 levels drop off, and decreased levels of the antioxidant have been observed in cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases.

            In laboratory and animal studies, the UM researchers found that by delivering CoQ10 to cancer cells and tissues, the molecule induced apoptosis, which is the normal programmed cell death that goes awry in the disease process.  “The most amazing part is that we’ve been able to restore a cancer cell’s ability to kill itself, while not impacting normal cells,”   said Niven Narain, research associate in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the Miller School of Medicine.

             The scientists made two presentations at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Anaheim, Ca.  The first presentation involved the most common prostate cancer cell line, PC3.  The researchers showed that adding CoQ10 to the cells in vitro, or in the laboratory, there was a 70 percent inhibition of cell growth over 48 hours and a reversal in the expression of a key anti-apoptotic protein, bcl-2.  “We saw evidence that the remarkable reduction in cell growth was due to apoptosis, showing that CoQ10 restored the ability of the cancer cells to kill themselves,” said Narain.

In the second presentation, the researchers showed the impact of CoQ10 on several different breast cancer cell lines.  They found the substance greatly inhibited the proliferation of breast cancer cells, while providing a stabilizing effect on the normal mammary cells.  “This suggests to us that CoQ10 could be an effective adjuvant anti-tumor agent in breast carcinomas,” said Indushekhar Persaud, research associate  in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the Miller School of Medicine.

            The scientists have employed various ways to deliver the CoQ10, including through the skin.  They used liposomes made of phospholipids as a molecular vehicle to deliver dermatologically active agents into targeted cells.  “This significant work is an excellent model for the important outcomes of  basic science research, to offer new opportunities for exploring therapeutic options in ill patients.  It is the laboratory bench to bedside paradigm we all seek,”  said Lawrence Schachner, M.D., chairman of the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery.

             S.L. Hsia, Ph.D., director of the Transdermal Delivery/Cutaneous Biology Laboratory and principal investigator of the research, said, “It is amazing that a benign compound, CoQ10, can cause the cancer cells to selectively kill themselves without harm to normal cells. Moreover, we have a novel topical delivery system that offers cancer patients an improved quality of life with a boost of energy.  Indeed, our team looks forward to one day bringing the benefit and hope of this technology to many cancer patients.”



Media Contact: Jeanne Antol Krull
April 25, 2005