MONDAY, July 25, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A compound found in Chinese medicine and derived from cottonseed could help improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy in treating head and neck cancer, researchers report.
The compound, called (-)-gossypol, regulates a protein that's overexpressed in cancer cells and helps them to survive. Researchers say the compound killed 70 percent to 90 percent of cancer cells specifically developed to be resistant to chemotherapy drugs.
"This is a very impressive induction of cell death," said study author Thomas Carey, co-director of the Head and Neck Oncology Program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and a professor at the University of Michigan's dental and medical schools. "It's because we are targeting the pathways these cells need to survive."
Researchers hope to begin a clinical trial in head and neck cancer patients within a year, to test whether the compound can be combined with chemotherapy to better treat tumors.
The findings appear in the July issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.
The National Institutes of Health has more about head and neck cancer.