Antioxidants promote cancer progression

Antioxidants promote cancer progression


Oxidative stress is bad because it can damage DNA and this is a way into cell transformation and cancer, and because antioxidants can protect cells from oxidative stress, they are good for people with cancer, right? Well, not exactly.

A recent study published in Nature showed that mice injected with cancer cells and treated with antioxidants produced a lot more tumors than the ones with no antioxidants.

The researchers discovered that oxidative stress is dangerous not only for healthy cells, but for metastatic ones too. That is why cancer cells usually have metabolic changes during metastasis that increases their capacity to resist oxidative stress. At this point, adding some antioxidants can help this cells resist the journey inside blood vessels and distant organs that are rich in reactive oxygen species (ROS), the agents of oxidative stress.

The conclusion of the paper shows us that the role of the antioxidants is not completely understood:

ROS can cause oncogenic mutations and activate oncogenic pathways, raising the possibility that treatment with antioxidants could suppress the initiation or progression of some cancers. Antioxidants or antioxidant enzymes suppress cancer initiation in some contexts while increasing cancer initiation in other contexts. Increasing dietary antioxidants has generally not reduced cancer incidence in clinical trials. Dietary supplementation with antioxidants actually increased incidence and death from lung and prostate cancer. Dietary supplementation with folate promotes the development and progression of breast cancer. Our results suggest that antioxidants promote disease progression, at least in melanoma, by promoting metastasis.

Of course more studies are needed, but maybe we should follow the advice from one of the researchers: “personally, from the results we’ve seen, I would avoid supplementing my diet with large amounts of antioxidants if I had cancer.”antioxidantsThese are interesting resources about the topic:

Original article: Oxidative stress inhibits distant metastasis by human melanoma cells

The latest study about antioxidants is terrifying. Scientists think they may boost cancer cells to spread faster.

Scientific American: antioxidants may make cancer worse

Nature: antioxidants speed cancer in mice

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Fabricio Pamplona is the founder of Mind the Graph - a tool used by over 400K users in 60 countries. He has a Ph.D. and solid scientific background in Psychopharmacology and experience as a Guest Researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry (Germany) and Researcher in D'Or Institute for Research and Education (IDOR, Brazil). Fabricio holds over 2500 citations in Google Scholar. He has 10 years of experience in small innovative businesses, with relevant experience in product design and innovation management. Connect with him on LinkedIn - Fabricio Pamplona.