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Soy may halt cancer in its tracks

NORTHWESTERN (US) — A new, nontoxic drug made from a chemical in soy could prevent the movement of cancer cells from the prostate to the rest of the body.

Genistein, a natural chemical found in soy, inhibits prostate cancer cells from becoming metastatic and spreading to other parts of the body.

The drug has previously worked in preclinical animal studies and now shows benefits in humans with prostate cancer.

A recent phase II randomized study of 38 men with localized prostate cancer found that when given once a day as a pill, one month prior to surgery, the drug had beneficial effects on the prostate cancer cells.

Researchers examined the cancer cells from the subjects’ prostates after surgery and found that genistein increased the expression of genes that suppress the invasion of cancer cells and decreased the expression of genes that enhance invasion.

“The first step is to see if the drug has the effect that you want on the cells and the prostate, and the answer is ‘yes, it does,'” says Raymond Bergan, professor of hematology and oncology at Northwestern University.

The next step is to conduct another phase II study to see if the drug can stop the cancer cells from moving out of the prostate and into the rest of the body, Bergan says.

If it can, it will be the first therapy for any cancer that is non-toxic and targets and inhibits cancer cell movement.

“All therapies designed to stop cancer cell movement that have been tested to date in humans have basically failed because they have been ineffective or toxic,” Bergan says.

“If this drug can effectively stop prostate cancer from moving in the body, theoretically, a similar therapy could have the same effect on the cells of other cancers.”

Funding from the National Institutes of Health supported this research.

More news from Northwestern University: www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/index.html

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