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Cleveland Clinic study shows vitamin E may decrease cancer risk in Cowden syndrome patients

Cleveland Clinic researchers have discovered that vitamin E may prevent cancer in patients with an under-recognized genetic disorder.

Several genetic mutations are known to be present in Cowden Syndrome (CS) – a disease that predisposes individuals to several types of cancers, including breast and thyroid cancers.

One type of mutation in the succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) genes may be responsible for cancer development, according to research by Charis Eng, M.D., Ph.D., Hardis Chair and Director of the Genomic Medicine Institute and Director of its Center for Personalized Genetic Healthcare at Lerner Research Institute, published today in Clinical Cancer Research.

Dr. Eng discovered that mutations in SDH genes, responsible for energy production, result in an accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These changes damage the cells and make them resistant to apoptosis – our bodies' natural method of weeding out cancerous cells.

However, when vitamin E was applied to the mutant cells, ROS accumulation decreased, as well as the accompanying cellular damage.

"These findings support the notion that vitamin E may be useful as an anti-cancer therapeutic adjunct or preventive agent, especially for CS patients harboring SDH mutations, and its protective properties should be further explored," said Dr. Eng.

CS predisposes individuals to several types of cancers – an 85 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer, a 35 percent risk for epithelial thyroid cancer, and increased risk of other cancers as well. Approximately one in 200,000 people are affected by CS.

Dr. Eng's research was supported by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute (NIH/NCI) grant P01CA124570-04S1.

Editor's Note: Cleveland Clinic News Service is available to provide broadcast-quality interviews and B-roll upon request.

About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S. News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation's best hospitals in its annual "America's Best Hospitals" survey. About 2,800 full-time salaried physicians and researchers and 11,000 nurses represent 120 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic Health System includes a main campus near downtown Cleveland, eight community hospitals and 18 Family Health Centers in Northeast Ohio, Cleveland Clinic Florida, the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Cleveland Clinic Canada, and opening in 2013, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. In 2010, there were 4 million visits throughout the Cleveland Clinic health system and 167,000 hospital admissions. Patients came for treatment from every state and from more than 100 countries.

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