Scientists believe that while common forms of breast cancer are fueled by estrogen, retinoic acid which is a derivative of vitamin A may have an inhibiting effect on cell growth.
Retinoic acid has already been known for its anticancer effects, and a team of researchers from the University of Chicago set out to find where the retinoic acid receptors bound to the genome to map out its genetic effects in a cell line derived from patients with estrogen-fuelled breast cancer.
They found that 39 percent of the genome regions bound by estrogen receptor alpha overlapped with those bound by retinoic acid. They also found that the binding of estrogen and retinoic acids receptors to target sites were often mutually exclusive, meaning the two compounds compete to activate or repress many of the same genes.
“This work reveals important insights on the interplay between vitamin A and estrogen action,” says Dr. Myles Brown, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
“These insights will hopefully lead to new approaches for the prevention and treatment of the most common form of breast cancer,” he adds.
Those who are concerned about their vitamin intake may turn to nutritional supplements.