Unlocking the Power of Vitamin A: Tretinoin Enhances Cancer Treatment

Unlocking the Power of Vitamin A: Tretinoin Enhances Cancer Treatment

Tretinoin is a derivative of vitamin A. It shows the potential to enhance the effects of chemotherapy. Combining tretinoin with chemotherapy improved survival rates in mesothelioma in mice.

Chemotherapy Response in Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that is hard to diagnose and treat. It develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the body’s internal organs. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to a toxic mineral called asbestos.

In most cases, doctors will use more than one type of treatment to remove as many cancer cells as possible from a patient’s body. The standard therapies include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

When a patient gets chemotherapy treatment, they are given drugs that kill cells by damaging their DNA. Currently, the only FDA-approved chemotherapy for mesothelioma is a combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin.

Cisplatin is a platinum-based drug. It damages the DNA of dividing cells and slows down the growth of cancer cells. Doctors have noticed that in some cases, cancer cells become resistant to cisplatin. This makes the treatment less effective.

Vitamin A Improves Cancer Treatment

Chemotherapy is commonly used to treat advanced cancers. But it is often not curative and can have severe side effects. Immune checkpoint therapy boosts the body’s immune response against cancer. It has shown promise in improving outcomes. But, not all patients respond to this treatment, and it can cause serious side effects.

In a new study, researchers looked at drugs that could enhance the anti-cancer effects of chemotherapy. They found that tretinoin could improve the response to chemotherapy. It creates an environment within the tumor that is more sensitive to chemotherapy. It increases the presence of immune cells called CD8+ T cells in the tumor. These are known to be important for fighting cancer.

The combination of tretinoin and chemotherapy was effective in mesothelioma. But it did not show the same benefit in other types of cancer cells tested.

Overall, tretinoin shows promise as a potential adjunct to chemotherapy in mesothelioma. More research is needed to understand the potential of this treatment in clinical settings.


Tilsed, Caitlin M., M. Lizeth Orozco Morales, Rachael M. Zemek, Brianna A. Gordon, Matthew J. Piggott, Anna K. Nowak, Scott A. Fisher, Richard A. Lake, and W. Joost Lesterhuis. “Tretinoin Improves the Anti-Cancer Response to Cyclophosphamide, in a Model-Selective Manner.” BMC Cancer 24, no. 1 (December 2024): 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12885-024-11915-5.

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