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Vitamin E improves Bevacizumab response in Ovarian Cancer patients

Oct 19, 2019

Highlights

Vitamin E is an antioxidant found in foods including corn oil, vegetable oils, palm oil, almonds, hazelnuts, pine-nuts and sunflower seeds. Oncologists often use Avastin (Bevacizumab) as the treatment for ovarian cancer. Various studies have shown that taking the right nutrition including the right foods and supplements can help improve treatment outcomes in cancer patients. One such clinical study conducted in Denmark has shown that using Vitamin E (tocotrienol) along with Avastin (Bevacizumab) doubled the survival rate and stabilized the disease in 70% of chemotherapy resistant ovarian cancer patients. This indicates that a diet rich in Vitamin E may be beneficial for ovarian cancer patients, as it may improve the therapeutic response of Avastin/Bevacizumab. It is important to personalize nutrition to the specific cancer type and ongoing treatment for gaining benefits from nutrition and being safe.


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Vitamin E and its Food Sources

Vitamin E is an antioxidant nutrient found in a variety of foods including corn oil, vegetable oils, palm oil, almonds, hazelnuts, pine-nuts and sunflower seeds, besides many other fruits and vegetables. It is also available as a dietary supplement and is known to have many health benefits ranging from skin-care to improved heart and brain health. The antioxidant properties of Vitamin E helps protect the cells from damage caused by reactive free radicals and oxidative stress.

Ovarian Cancer

The reason why ovarian cancer is so fatal for countless women around the globe is because early stages of this cancer rarely cause any symptoms. During the later stages of this cancer, the symptoms such as weight-loss and abdominal pain, which are generally non-specific, start showing up and these usually do not raise much alarm. Because of this, women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer at a later stage, leading to a five year relative survival rate of 47% (American Cancer Society).

Vitamin E use in Ovarian Cancer improves Avastin response

Bevacizumab Treatment For Ovarian Cancer

One of the most common targeted therapies used for ovarian cancer is bevacizumab, also known by the brand name “Avastin”. Bevacizumab doesn’t work in a traditional chemo sense by just attacking and killing the cancer cells but works by starving out the tumors instead. In a war scenario, this would be like surrounding and isolating a city by cutting off all their essential supplies and resources instead of just mindlessly attacking. It does this by blocking a protein known as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Cancer cells have increased levels of VEGF and blocking this protein helps prevent the growth of new blood vessels which are vital for the transport of nutrients to cancer tumors.

Vitamin E Supplementation along with Bevacizumab for Ovarian Cancer

While Bevacizumab treatment along with chemotherapy is approved for ovarian cancer treatment, choosing the right diet to take along with avastin in ovarian cancer is important. A recent study done by researchers from a hospital in Denmark has shown the effectiveness of a supplement that can synergize with Bevacizumab and improve the odds of survival of ovarian cancer patients. Delta-tocotrienols are a specific group of chemicals that can be found in Vitamin E. Essentially, Vitamin E is made up of two groups of chemicals- tocopherols and tocotrienols. The Department of Oncology in Vejle Hospital, Denmark, studied the effect of the tocotrienol subgroup of vitamin E in combination with bevacizumab in chemo refractory ovarian cancer. This was the first ever clinical trial done using this combination for multi-resistant ovarian cancer and the results seem to be promising.

Compared to a typically reported median Progression Free Survival of 2-4 months and median Overall Survival of 5-7 months, combined treatment of bevacizumab and delta-tocotrienol almost doubled survival, with the patients reaching a median PFS of 6.9 months and a median OS of 10.9 months, maintaining the rate of disease stabilization at 70% with minimal toxicity (Thomsen CB et al, PharmacolRes. 2019). Nutrition/Diet rich in Vitamin E may be beneficial (natural remedy) for chemo resistant ovarian cancer patients treated with Avastin by improving the response rate.

Nutrition while on Chemotherapy | Personalized to Individual's Cancer type, Lifestyle & Genetics

Conclusion

This study demonstrated the anti-cancer effect of delta-tocotrienol in multiresistant ovarian cancer, but the same is not established for tocopherols. Most Vitamin E supplements are higher in tocopherols than tocotrienols. When consumed in right quantities, tocotrienol seems to have numerous other health benefits ranging from skin-care to improved heart and brain health. Natural intake is always better and can be obtained from rice bran, palm oil, rye, oats, and barley. As for consuming tocotrienol supplements for cancer treatment, one should always discuss the same with their doctor prior to use because it is always better to be safe than sorry.


Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.


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