WASHINGTON--In an experiment that may blur the line between therapeutic
and preventive medications, researchers from the University of
Wisconsin, Madison, plan to move a novel new compound to phase
II testing in advanced cancer patients.
Results from a phase I trial still in progress show "very
manageable, very low toxicity and some hints of response,"
Michael N. Gould, PhD, reported at the American Association of
Cancer Researchers (AACR) meeting.
The compound, perillyl alcohol, originally isolated from lavender
oil, is a monoterpene, one of a group of naturally occurring compounds
that Dr. Gould and his colleagues have explored with the aim of
finding a drug to do dual duty in prevention and treatment.
Since precancerous cells and fully malignant cells share many
characteristics, cells in either state might respond to a single
agent, the team suggests.
"What we're starting to look at is a continuum between chemoprevention
and chemotherapy," said Dr. Gould, professor of human oncology.
"In chemotherapy, we're beginning to see that some of the
same targets that might be useful for preventing cancer might
also be useful for treating cancer. The idea is to take advantage
of this continuum."
The Wisconsin researchers have found that perillyl alcohol and
other monoterpenes can induce programmed cell death (apoptosis).
The biochemical mechanism involves degrading a growth factor necessary
for cell division and activating a factor that causes cells to
differentiate and stop dividing.