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(Drug information on 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.