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Natural Soy Component May Help Treat Colon Cancer

Discovery in fruit fly study may lead to new drugs for people, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Sphingadienes, natural lipid molecules found in soy, could become a key ingredient in treatments for colon cancer, California researchers have found.

The findings are preliminary, but the study authors pointed out that they could help explain why soy seems to provide protection against colon cancer.

In the study, Dr. Julie Saba, senior scientist and director of the Cancer Center at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, and colleagues found sphingadienes in the fruit fly, which is used to study the genetics of human disease. They discovered that higher levels of sphingadienes in the fruit fly led to the deaths of mutant cells.

The researchers, who report their findings in the Dec. 15 issue of Cancer Research, suggest that soy could be a cancer killer because it is rich in sphingadienes, also known as SDs.

"First, we are encouraged to find a natural molecule that could be consumed through soy products as a strategy to help prevent colon cancer," Saba said in a hospital news release.

"Second, this information is important because we can build on our understanding of the structure and metabolism of SDs in terms of developing new drugs to treat people who already have colon cancer," she added. "Uncovering how SDs exert their effects also helps us to find the most likely combinations of drugs that may work synergistically to eliminate cancer cells and mutant cells that could give rise to cancer."

More information

Learn more about colon cancer from the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland, news release, Nov. 24, 2009

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