Scientists have hailed the discovery as a “new dawn” in cancer treatment after finding a link between malignant cells and lack of vitamin A.
Experts at the University of York found that cancer cells are under control of a derivative of the vitamin, known as retinoic acid, the ‘Daily Express’ reported.
They believe that vitamin A can be used as new anti-cancer treatment and advised people to ensure they include adequate levels of the nutrient in their diets.
The study was carried out on prostate cancer cells but Professor Norman Maitland of Yorkshire Cancer Research believes the treatment could apply to other cancers as well.
“This may apply to a number of other cancers,” said Maitland.
Maitland, however, warned people not to rush out to buy vitamin A supplements, which could be toxic and even cancerous in high doses.
Instead he advised people to take vitamin A in their daily diet, including oily fish, carrots, liver, red pepper and dark leafy vegetables.
“We hope vitamin A will be used to prevent prostate cancer and we also believe that a derivative of vitamin A could help destroy prostate cancer cells or make them more treatable once they have started to spread. Clinical trials based on this research could herald a new dawn in treatment for prostate cancer patients,” he said.
He said that retinoic acid is already used to treat a blood cancer and has been extremely successful in improving survival rates to 80 per cent.
“It has been known for years that low vitamin A in samples of blood is associated with prostate cancer, but nobody knew the mechanisms involved. We have for the first time revealed a biological link,” Maitland said.
The study is published in the journal ‘Nucleic Acids’