According to new research, prostate cancer stem cells are more likely to survive if a person has low levels of vitamin A.
Oily fish is a good source of vitamin A
Scientists at the University of York have found a link between prostate cancer and low levels of vitamin A.
Writing in the scientific journal Nucleic Acids Research, they discovered that a derivative of vitamin A- called retinoic acid- causes a change in prostate cancer cells which makes them far more susceptible to chemotherapy.
Researchers hope the discovery will give a better understanding of how vitamin A affects cancer cells, and lead to the development of new medicines.
Study leader Professor Norman Maitland said: “We are trying to find how it works at the level of the cancer cell.
“If you have low vitamin A, the cancer stem cells are more likely to survive and, split but if you have more vitamin A you can kill them. It makes them more susceptible to chemotherapy."
“Doctors have been using vitamin A to kill cancers but we should be using it to modify the cancer cells, i.e. set them up to be killed.”
Whilst the study is not linking dietary intake of the vitamin with a reduced risk of prostate cancer, it does indicate that people with high levels of vitamin A could be easier to treat successfully.
Foods high in vitamin A include liver, cheese, eggs, oily fish, milk and yoghurt.
Last year, Professor Maitland and his team were awarded £2.15 million by Yorkshire Cancer Research, enabling them to continue their work.
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