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Vitamin E can boost immunotherapy used to treat cancer

Vitamin E can boost immunotherapy used to treat cancerImmunotherapy has a special potential when used to treat cancer, which is because this particular type of therapy inhibits special molecules that block the body’s own defense mechanism against cancer cells. A team of scientists from Texas has discovered that vitamin E inhibits a particular molecule, thereby boosting the immunotherapy’s ability to stimulate important white blood cells. The scientists made this discovery by analyzing clinical data and in-depth laboratory studies. Vitamin E may play a future role in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

It’s commonly known that chemotherapy works by interrupting uncontrolled cell divisions that occur when cells have genetic flaws or are coded incorrectly for various reasons. Immunotherapy, in contrast, follows a different path by activating certain parts of the body’s immune defense to help it kill off cancer cells more effectively. It is the immune system’s task to destroy abnormal cells or potential cancer cells and prevent them from dividing and spreading. Immunotherapy makes use of the immune-regulating white blood cells, antibodies, or signaling compounds (cytokines) to affect the body’s defense mechanism and help it attack the cancer cells. It is also a matter of targeting the immunotherapy in such a way that it can terminate the molecular flaws to which the immune defense is exposed. Once the dendritic cells have traced antigens (abnormal or foreign proteins) from germs or cancer cells, they activate the special troops of the immune defense, which includes the T cells that are designed to attack and destroy cancer cells. However, this ability be lost as the cancer progresses, and it is likely that lack of vitamin E is part of the explanation.
The scientists observed that vitamin E binds to and blocks the activity of the special SHP1 protein in the dendritic cells, thereby reinvigorating them so they are suddenly able to deliver more antigens to the T cells. This increases the T cells’ attack on cancer cells before the cancer cells succeed in dividing and spreading.

Targeted vitamin E therapy against SHP1 may become a new strategy

According to the Texas scientists, vitamin E therapy that affects the special SHP1 checkpoint protein in the dendritic cells may offer therapeutic advantages, both in terms of preventing cancer and in terms of boosting the effect of immunotherapy used to treat cancer.
They plan to study if vitamin E can also improve the effect of other types of immunotherapies, and the scientist are currently working on ways to develop other SHP1 inhibitors to use them as potential cancer therapies in the future.
The new study is published in Cancer Discovery.

  • There is vitamin E in vegetable foods such as plant oils, nuts, avocado, and cabbage. Vitamin E is also found in animal foods like egg yolk, cod roe, and high-fat dairy products.


Xiangliang Yuan et al. Vitamin E Enhances Cancer Immunotherapy by Reinvigorating Dendritic Cells via Targeting Checkpoint SHP1.  Cancer Discovery, 2022; DOI: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-21-0900

University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Vitamin E can boost immunotherapy response by reinvigorating dendritic cells. ScienceDaily April 14, 2022

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