Researchers have revealed that a drug that prevents the breakdown of a vitamin A-derived compound may provide a new form of prostate cancer treatment.
Daily injections of a compound called VN/14-1 were found to block the breakdown of retinoic acid, a compound created when the body breaks down vitamin A.
Retinoic acid is known to maintain normal cell growth and is often present in only low amounts in prostate cancer cells.
Dr Vincent Njar, associate professor in the University of Maryland's Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and senior investigator, described the study's findings as "unexpected and wonderfully surprising".
He commented: "This potent agent causes cancer cells to differentiate, forcing them to turn back to a non-cancerous state - which is what we expected it would do - but it also stops cancer growth by arresting the cell cycle and pushes cells to die by inducing programmed cell death."
The findings were presented at a conference of the American Association for Cancer Research.