Can vitamin A turn back the clock on breast cancer?

A derivative of vitamin A, known as retinoic acid, found abundantly in sweet potato and carrots, helps turn pre-cancer cells back to normal healthy breast cells, according to research published this month in the International Journal of Oncology. The research could help explain why some clinical studies have been unable to see a benefit of vitamin A on cancer: the vitamin doesn’t appear to change the course of full-blown cancer, only pre-cancerous cells, and only works at a very narrow dose.Because cells undergo many changes before they become fully aggressive and metastatic, 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.When the researchers exposed the four breast cell types to different concentrations of retinoic acid – one of the chemicals that the body converts vitamin A into – they noticed a strong change in the pre-cancerous cells. Not only did the pre-cancerous cells begin to look more like normal cells in terms of their shape, they also changed their genetic signature back to normal. Dr. Fernandez’s pre-cancerous cells had 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,” says Dr. Fernandez. “It will be interesting to see if these results can be applied to patients.”Interestingly, the cells that were considered fully cancerous did not respond at all to retinoic acid, suggesting that there may be a small window of opportunity for retinoic acid to be helpful in preventing cancer progression. …

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Ultrasonic instrument may be helpful for rhinoplasty, study finds

Sep. 25, 2011 — The ultrasonic bone aspirator, which uses sound waves to remove bone without damage to surrounding soft tissue or mucous membranes, may be a useful tool for surgeons performing cosmetic rhinoplasty (cosmetic surgery of the nose), according to a report in the September issue of Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Cosmetic surgeons have a variety of tools with which to perform rhinoplasty, such as bone saws, carbide rasps and power-assisted rasps, according to background information in the article. “Unfortunately, each tool has limitations that decrease its usefulness,” write the authors. For example, the tools may cause deformities, damage surrounding structures and tissue, prove difficult to use in addressing mobile bone fragments or obstruct direct visualization. The authors sought to study the ultrasonic bone aspirator, a device that uses sound waves to remove bone without injuring nearby tissue, in cosmetic rhinoplasty.

Jewel D. Greywoode, M.D., and Edmund A. Pribitkin, M.D., from the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, conducted a retrospective review of 103 consecutive patients who underwent cosmetic rhinoplasty at a tertiary care academic facial plastic surgery practice. The ultrasonic bone aspirator was used for conventional procedures and also in novel ways for further aesthetic refinement, such as addressing deformities and sculpting mobile bone fragments. Both cartilage treated with the device and untreated cartilage were evaluated by histologic (microscope) analysis for injury to tissue. Researchers documented patient and surgeon satisfaction as well as complications. Patients were followed up with at one week, one month, three months, six months and one year after the procedure. The mean (average) length of follow-up was 3.2 months, with a range of zero to 14.2 months.

The most common application of the ultrasonic bone aspirator was for smoothing of the nose’s bony edges, which was performed in all patients. Outcomes were considered satisfactory for all patients. Minor complications occurred in seven patients (6.8 percent) treated with the ultrasonic bone aspirator. Injuries to skin and soft tissue were not experienced by any study participants.

The authors concluded that the ultrasonic bone aspirator could be a useful tool for surgeons performing cosmetic rhinoplasty. The device, they explain, allows precise, graded removal of bone without damage to surrounding soft tissue or mucous membranes; can be used for procedures such as refinement of subtle irregularities and asymmetry of the nasal bones; and does not seem to have a significant risk of complications. “Multiple applications in nasal surgery can be found,” the authors write, “and although long-term results are lacking, the device’s positive safety profile and early results warrant further use and investigation.”

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