Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

UM Miller School Researchers Identify How Coq10 Fights Cancer

04.03.2006

Researchers from the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine have identified how Coenzyme Q10 inhibits a protein that plays a vital role in cancer. The researchers, Niven R. Narain and Indushekhar Persaud, presented findings at last year’s meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research on the ability of CoQ10, a powerful antioxidant, to inhibit melanoma in the lab. They are now reporting their new findings showing how CoQ10 works and expanding its use at this year’s AACR meeting, April 1 to 5 in Washington, D.C.

Bcl-2 is a protein that tells cells when to shut themselves off, a normal process called apoptosis. But in malignant cells this programmed cell death is switched off, allowing cancer to proliferate and spread. Bcl-2 and CoQ10 are present in both normal and malignant human cells but the ratio changes in malignant cells. Cancer cells have more Bcl-2 and less CoQ10 than normal cells. Narain and Persaud examined that relationship and found that when they administered more CoQ10 to melanoma and prostate tumors in the lab the level of Bcl-2 dropped, and the tumors got smaller. This is the first time researchers have established a correlation between the Bcl-2 protein family and Coenzyme Q10.

The Bcl-2 protein shows such promise as a therapeutic target that it is a major research theme at this year’s AACR, which is considered by oncologists to be one of the most important cancer research meetings in the world. The AACR put out a call for investigators to pursue data on the genetic and chemical workings of this protein family. “We already had the data on both the protein and gene, data which shows a significant down-regulation of Bcl-2 by CoQ10,” said Persaud, Chief Bioengineer for Drug Delivery Therapeutics in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the UM Miller School of Medicine.

“Last year we found that CoQ10 was inducing apoptosis,” said Narain, Director of Transdermal Delivery/Cutaneous Cancer Research in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery. “What we’ve found now is that a protein family called Bcl-2 is responsible for conferring resistance to many chemotherapeutic drugs and to radiation. Bcl-2 is a soldier on behalf of cancer.” Bcl-2 takes away the ability of a cell to kill itself and it is over-expressed in many cancers, making the tumor cells resistant to treatment and more likely to grow and spread. In laboratory testing, CoQ10 reverses that, restoring the cancer’s susceptibility to chemo and radiation, and fighting the tumor cells by itself. Since CoQ10 occurs naturally in the cell, it promises to have few side effects. “We’re using something that is already nestled in the mitochondrial membrane, alongside Bcl-2 in the cell.”

“I feel that this technology will usher in a new wave of hope and comfort for those afflicted by cancer,” said S. L. Hsia, Ph.D., director of the Transdermal Delivery/Cutaneous Biology Laboratory in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery. Persaud and Narain presented two posters at the AACR conference – one with their new data on the Bcl-2/CoQ10 relationship in melanoma and another showing efficacy against prostate cancer in the lab.

The UM group developed a novel way to combine CoQ10 with phospholipids, which are prolific in the skin, effectively creating a way to deliver CoQ10 through the skin with a cream. There is tremendous interest among researchers and biotechnology companies to develop this promising knowledge into human therapies. “We are looking forward to further investigating Coenzyme Q10’s mechanism of action with the UM Miller School of Medicine,” said Lan Strickland, General Manager, Dermal Technology Business Unit at Pathfinder Management, Inc., in Nashville, Tennessee. Pathfinder Management has licensed the technology. “We see great opportunities for this technology while improving overall quality of life in the management of cancer.”

Narain and Persaud are two of many UM Miller School physicians and researchers participating in the 97th Annual AACR meeting. Joseph D. Rosenblatt, M.D., Associate Director for Clinical and Translational Research at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, is chairing a panel on disparities in cancer outcomes; medical oncologist Khaled Tolba, M.D., has an oral presentation on immune response in cancer; and Claire Croutch, Ph.D., a fellow in the laboratory of Microbiology and Immunology associate professor Lawrence Boise, Ph.D., is presenting research on a promising new arsenic-based cancer therapy. To learn more, visit the AACR conference web site at http://www.aacr.org/page5902.aspx.

UM/Sylvester opened in 1992 to provide comprehensive cancer services and today serves as the hub for cancer-related research, diagnosis, and treatment at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. UM/Sylvester handles 1,400 inpatient admissions annually, performs 3,000 surgical procedures, and treats 3,000 new cancer patients. All UM/Sylvester physicians are on the faculty of the Miller School of Medicine, South Florida’s only academic medical center. In addition, UM/Sylvester physicians and scientists are engaged in 200 clinical trials and receive more than $31 million annually in research grants. UM/Sylvester at Deerfield Beach recently opened to better meet the needs of residents of Broward and Palm Beach Counties. This 10,000 square-foot facility at I-95 and S.W. 10th Street offers appointments with physicians from six cancer specialties, complementary therapies from the Courtelis Center, and education and outreach events.

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