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Health News Archive 4 - Liver
to structure/function index

L-Carnitine May Prevent Hepatitis and Liver Cancer

Researchers in Japan have conducted an animal study that indicates L-Carnitine may protect against free radical damage and mitochondrial dysfunction in hepatitis and liver cancer.

In past studies, the same researchers have reported that mitochondrial dysfunction plays an important role in the development of liver cancer through the production of free radicals.  They also conducted studies that showed L-Carnitine protects mitochondrial function in vivo.

In the current study, they investigated whether long-term administration of L-Carnitine could prevent hepatitis and subsequent liver cancer in a type of rat often analyzed as a model of liver cancer. In this liver cancer model, oxidative stress occurred in the animals, which increased the amount of free fatty acids, thereby inducing mitochondrial dysfunction. This resulted in cell death and enhanced secondary generation of reactive oxygen species (free radicals). In the animals given carnitine, however, these destructive processes were significantly inhibited. In addition, L-Carnitine significantly inhibited markers for precancerous lesions and markers for liver cancer.

The researchers concluded, "These facts suggest that mitochondrial injury plays an essential role in the development of hepatocarcinogenesis [liver cancer] and that the clinical use of carnitine has excellent therapeutic potential in individuals with chronic hepatitis."

Reference: Chang B, Nishikawa M, Nishiguchi S, Inoue M.   L-carnitine inhibits hepatocarcinogenesis via protection of mitochondria. Int J Cancer. 2004 Oct 21 [Epub ahead of print]. 

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Lycopene Found to Suppress Liver Cancer

The following study results were reported at the American Academy of Cancer Research Meeting in October, 2002.  A five-year clinical study conducted in Japan examined liver cancer prevention in high-risk liver cancer patients.  These high-risk patients were hepatitis C virus carriers, those with cirrhosis and/or those having a family history of liver cancer. 

The study showed a remarkable 50% hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) suppression in those participants who consumed a daily combination of natural tomato extract (Lyc-O-Mato® brand of Lycopene) providing 10 mg carotenes, (30% alpha, 60% beta-carotene) and 50 mg alpha tocopherols (vitamin E) as well as tocotrienols.  These significantly positive results suggest treating patients at high risk for cancer with a mixture of natural tomato extract (Lycopene), carotenes, and a vitamin E complex holds promise as a viable clinical application. 

American Academy of Cancer Research Meeting, October 2002.

View more info on Lycopene

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Researchers Begin Study to Understand Why Mood Boosting SAMe May Help Patients Survive Alcohol Related Liver Disease

American Nutraceutical Association Press Release: LOS ANGELES - Aug. 6, 2001

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) began enrolling patients in a small, 1-year, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial at the affiliated L.A. County Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center (RLA) to understand why SAMe, a dietary supplement used by hundreds of thousands of people in the United States as a mood booster, may be of critical importance to patients with alcoholic liver disease (ALD).

A previous trial demonstrated that SAMe reduced mortality and improved survival time in patients with less severe alcoholic cirrhosis, an advanced stage of ALD. But the 2-year, double-blind, placebo-controlled SAMe trial, involving 123 patients given either a daily dose of 1,200 mg of SAMe or placebo did not answer why, and few in the U.S. are aware of the results or that SAMe is involved in the liver. ``Although SAMe is a recent phenomenon to the U.S. public as an alternative medicine for depression, we as researchers have years of knowledge regarding SAMe’s role in liver function,'' said Dr. Hide Tsukamoto, Director of the USC-UCLA Research Center for Alcoholic Liver and Pancreatic Diseases.

``Liver disease is a top killer in the U.S., especially among the Hispanic population, and despite the fact that public awareness is very low, the scientific community continues to make progress, and this study is an example of that progress.'' SAMe is an important compound in all tissues and is made primarily in the liver as a result of methionine metabolism. Patients with ALD have abnormal methionine metabolism, which depletes SAMe. Depleted SAMe may affect the various liver functions that depend on it, including methionine metabolism itself, thereby contributing to the progression of the disease.

Other uses of SAMe 
SAMe came to the U.S. in 1999 as a dietary supplement known as a mood booster and was first approved as a prescription drug outside the U.S. in 1976. SAMe is a prescription drug in some countries to treat depression, osteoarthritis, and liver disease. SAMe is getting increased attention from the mainstream medical community, and a symposium on SAMe in liver disease is scheduled in September, 2001 at the National Institutes of Health.

USC is one of the institutions presenting data at the symposium. Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD) and Alcohol Abuse ALD is one of the most common liver diseases encountered in this country and is caused by alcohol abuse. There are three phases of ALD: fatty liver, which is usually reversible with abstinence; alcoholic hepatitis, or liver inflammation; and cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver.

The 10th Special Report to the U.S. Congress on Alcohol and Health estimates that 14 million Americans meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse and that there are, conservatively, 2 million Americans with ALD. There is currently no effective treatment for ALD, other than abstinence in the early phase, and the disease remains a leading killer of people each year in the U.S., especially among Hispanics. Current clinical trials using dietary supplements such as SAMe are rare due to the fact that there is little funding from the companies that sell them. USC is using a private donation to fund the current SAMe trial and hopes that more funding becomes available to study SAMe in liver disease.

``Completion of the current SAMe study will greatly advance our understanding of the role of altered methionine metabolism in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver injury and the mechanism or mechanisms of SAMe's protective action,'' said Dr. Michel Mendler, the principle investigator of the study. USC researchers already have experience with SAMe in liver function from past and ongoing National Institutes of Health funded study at the basic science, or cellular level and hope that a better understanding of the biochemical changes that result with SAMe administration in patients with ALD leads to new treatment options.

Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center (RLA) RLA is an L.A. County facility in Downey that cares for uninsured or those covered by Medical, as well as insured patients. Its patient population generally consists of those who are severely ill who most often are refused care elsewhere and are referred by other L.A. County facilities or the L.A. County+USC Medical Center. The current study is recruiting in-patients who are hospitalized there for acute alcoholic hepatitis, and is not open to voluntary enrollment from the general public.

View more info on SAM-e

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