In 1982, it was established that alpha-tocopheryl succinate (-TS) was the most effective form of vitamin E in comparison to -tocopherol, -tocopheryl acetate and -tocopheryl nicotinate in inducing differentiation, inhibition of proliferation and apoptosis in cancer cells, depending upon its concentration. During the last two decades, several studies have confirmed this observation in rodent and human cancer cells in culture and in vivo (animal model). The most exciting aspect of this -TS effect is that it does not affect the proliferation of most normal cells. In spite of several studies published on the anti-cancer properties of -TS, the value of this form of vitamin E has not drawn significant attention from researchers and clinicians.
Therefore, a critical review on the potential role of -TS in the management of cancer is needed. In addition, such a review can also provide in-depth analysis of existing literature on this subject. -TS treatment causes extensive alterations in gene expression; however, only some can be attributed to differentiation, inhibition of proliferation and apoptosis. -TS also enhances the growth-inhibitory effect of ionizing radiation, hyperthermia, some chemotherapeutic agents and biological response modifiers on tumor cells, while protecting normal cells against some of their adverse effects. Thus, -TS alone or in combination with dietary micronutrients can be useful as an adjunct to standard cancer therapy by increasing tumor response and possibly decreasing some of the toxicities to normal cells.