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ULM pharmacy team earns first-ever international patent

Published October 01, 2014

A team of researchers from the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s School of Pharmacy recently received the university’s first-ever dual United States and International patent for natural Vitamin E compounds with enhanced anticancer activity.

El Sayed

The patent, titled “Tocotrienol Derivatives and Associated Methods,” is based on compounds created by Dr. Khalid El Sayed, Professor of Medicinal and Natural Products chemistry; Dr. Paul W. Sylvester, the holder of the Pfizer Inc - B. J. Robison Professorship in Pharmacy; and alumnus Dr. Fathy Behery, a former ULM pharmacy graduate student. 

“Basically, we took natural Vitamin E compounds called tocotrienols and made semi-synthetic spin-offs of these compounds that display greatly enhanced anticancer activity as compared to the natural parent compounds. This patent is very special because it was awarded as both a U.S. and International patent,” said El Sayed.


“This patent is the next level direction in Vitamin E research because its chemically novel compounds showed activity in animal models, unlike most other Vitamin E members. These compounds are considered as potential new anticancer drug entities.”

The Vitamin E similarities in the new patent are considered to be new chemotherapeutic chemical units for the control of breast cancer, and also appear to be very effective against several malignancies including colon cancer, melanoma, and many others.

“Most Vitamin E members act through their ability to remove or minimize oxidative stress, which later can lead to cancer,” said El Sayed. “New patent compounds are not acting through this direction, but likely through a novel and unprecedented mechanism, which is currently under investigation by our groups. Our compounds were designed to modify and enhance the activity of natural Vitamin E functional groups.”

This is the first international patent award for ULM. Three other anticancer patents, which were each U.S.-only patent designations, were awarded in July 2010, June 2012, and October 2012. El Sayed says that international patents have much better commercialization potential and scientific impact.

“Although the way these compounds apply their anticancer activity is not fully studied yet, these compounds showed very good safety and selectivity profiles when tested in the U.S. National Cancer Institute and Eli Lilly screening programs. The compounds showed no toxic effects on normal cells, and also showed potent and selective activity against cancer cells,” said El Sayed.

Among the most important strengths of the patent is compound’s ability to fight against breast cancer and several other malignancies including ovarian cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, brain cancers, and leukemia.

“This was based on data acquired in our laboratories and at the National Cancer Institute,” said El Sayed. “We are very excited about this patent award because it will open several commercialization and scientific directions for Vitamin E.”


“ULM’s Vitamin E team, which includes Sylvester, El Sayed, and Drs. Amal Kaddoumi and Sami Nazzal, is providing a multidisciplinary model for successful research efforts, and gaining more international recognition through such accomplishments. If successfully commercialized to a major pharmaceutical company, ULM and its partner First Tech International Ltd. in Hong Kong will gain rewarding revenue.”