What's Up With Breast Cancer, Doc?

Carrots and sweet potatoes may slow breast cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Mothers were definitely on to something when they made kids eat carrots, and that sweet potato casserole wasn't just for the yummy melted marshmallows on top.

A nutrient called retinoic acid is found in carrots and sweet potatoes and may suppress breast cancer growth in its early stages. Retinoic acids, the stuff found in carrots and sweet potatoes,  bind with acid receptor beta (RAR-β).

A decrease in RAR-β in tumors indicates the tumor is growing. Researchers from this study wanted to discover which environment the RAR-β suppresses and even reverses breast cancer cell growth.

"Retinoic acids found in carrots and sweet potatoes may fight cancer."

Sandra Fernandez, PhD, an assistant research professor at Fox Chase explained "We found that the RAR-β gene was active in the two earliest stages of cancer, but silenced in the final two stages," says Fernandez. "These changes in gene activation were caused by a type of chemical modification called methylation, which involves the addition of a methyl group to DNA."

The researchers at Fox Chase and Dr. Fernandez concocted a culture system representing four phases of cancer: Normal human breast cells, transformed cells, invasive cells and tumor cells and observed how plentiful RAR-β is in each stage of breast cancer development.

They are "quieter" in the final, advancing stages of breast cancer which may indicate the presence of RAR-β suppresses cancer growth.

Scientists aren’t sure why increased RAR-β seems to suppress tumor growth, but it is possible that the activated receptor limits cell growth by slowing down gene expression.

In Depth

  • Scientists process:  Cultures they made contained a collagen matrix, normal-like cells formed tubules resembling a normal mammary gland.  Transformed cells also gave rise to solid masses
  • Stage one and two cells that produced solid masses in collagen produced tubules when they received retinoic acid for 15 days
  • Stage three and four invasive and tumor cells did not generate tubules in response to treatment with retinoic acid, even in combination with a drug that activates RAR-β by inhibiting DNA methylation
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 7, 2011
Last Updated:
April 23, 2011