Researchers have made a discovery that suggests cancer cells benefit more from antioxidants than normal cells, raising concerns about the use of dietary antioxidants by patients with cancer. Research was conducted by a team of scientists at the Children’s Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI).
The studies were conducted in specialized mice that had been transplanted with melanoma cells from patients.
It has long been known that the spread of cancer cells from one part of the body to another is an inefficient process in which the vast majority of cancer cells that enter the blood fail to survive.
Metastasizing melanoma cells experience very high levels of oxidative stress, which leads to the death of most metastasizing cells.
Administration of antioxidants to the mice allowed more of the metastasizing melanoma cells to survive, increasing metastatic disease burden.
“The idea that antioxidants are good for you has been so strong that there have been clinical trials done in which cancer patients were administered antioxidants,” said Dr. Morrison, who is also a CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. “Some of those trials had to be stopped because the patients getting the antioxidants were dying faster. Our data suggest the reason for this: cancer cells benefit more from antioxidants than normal cells do.”
Healthy people who do not have cancer may very well benefit from antioxidants that can help reduce damage from highly reactive oxidative molecules generated by normal metabolism. While the study’s results have not yet been tested in people, they raise the possibility that cancer should be treated with pro-oxidants and that cancer patients should not supplement their diet with large doses of antioxidants.
Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center