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Cottonseed Drug May Help in Head, Neck Cancer

Drug Called Gossypol Helped Reduce Chemotherapy Resistance in Lab Cells
WebMD Health News

July 21, 2005 -- Scientists are testing a drug made from cottonseed extract against head and neck cancer.

The latest tests on the cottonseed extract, called gossypol, involved cancer cells, not people. The results appear in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

Another form of gossypol was once tested in China as a male contraceptive. That didn't work out. Some studies showed that men became infertile after stopping treatment.

In October 2004, researchers reported that gossypol might have potential against prostate cancergossypol might have potential against prostate cancer and possibly other cancers.

Latest Test

Now, scientists have pitted gossypol against head and neck cancer cells in a lab. Some of the cells were resistant to the chemotherapy drug cisplatin.

Those resistant cells tend to shrug off chemotherapy drugs that should kill them. Their protection may come from unusually high levels of two proteins, called Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL.

Gossypol seemed to pierce the cancer cells' chemotherapy resistance by curbing Bcl-XL, write the researchers. They included Joshua Bauer of the pharmacology department at the University of Michigan.

By taming Bcl-XL, the cancer cells became more vulnerable to chemotherapy, write Bauer and colleagues.

Head and neck cancer is the term used for a variety of malignant tumors that develop in this area of the body, including the mouth, throat, sinuses, and larynx (voice box).

Not Yet in Use

Cancer research on gossypol and related drugs is in its early stages. "To our knowledge, none are yet being used in patients, the researchers write.

If such drugs prove safe and effective, the researchers write that they expect them to be used along with conventional chemotherapy to help improve treatment effectiveness, and, most important, increase survival for advanced head and neck cancer patients.

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