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Oncology. 1992;49(2):77-81.

Treatment of oral leukoplakia with beta-carotene.

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Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genova, Italia.


Over the past few years, beta-carotene has progressively gained ground as a drug chosen in the treatment of oral leukoplakias, thus making it possible to reduce the use of 13-cis-retinoic acid, which was shown by many studies to be highly toxic while beta-carotene has proved to have no significant side effects and hence to be much more suitable in oral premalignancy. In 1989, a phase II study of patients showing oral leukoplakias and treated with beta-carotene (90 mg/day) was begun. A total of 23 patients (aged between 17 and 85) were included in the study and 18 (8 male and 10 female) were evaluated. Eight patients (44.4%) had objective responses (6 complete, 2 partial). Four CR and a PR appeared unexpectedly within 2-7 months after the end of the therapy. The lesions were macroscopically and histologically examined at entry; in the evaluated patients, two types of alterations were found: atypical hyperplasia (16 patients) and dysplasia (2 patients). No signs of significant toxicity were detected; only in 1 patient treatment had to be interrupted for 1 week. The results of this study show the fair efficacy of beta-carotene against oral leukoplakias, but further confirmations through controlled clinical studies are needed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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