New research suggests that antioxidants can promote the growth of cancer cells among patients.
Researchers at the University of Texas Southern Medical Center have found that antioxidants can benefit cancer cells and promote their growth among cancer patients.
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Antioxidant is a substance widely known for maintaining health and fighting off cancers. The substance is commonly found in the food like blueberries, strawberries, nuts, Red Kidney beans, and cabbage. But according to new research, antioxidant-rich food may not be good for those who are already suffering from cancer.
Dr. Sean Morrison, CRI director and his colleagues examined the progression of cancer in mice and transplanted Melanoma cells in specialized mice. Then, they divide the mice into two groups; one was given N-acetylcysteine (NAC) – a common antioxidant found in nutritional and bodybuilding supplements, while the other group was given nothing.
It has been long known that cancer cells generally enter the blood and spread from one part of the body to another. But vast majority of those cells could not survive. The result showed that mice with NAC antioxidant have higher levels of cancer in their blood and tumors also grew large in size.
“We discovered that metastasizing melanoma cells experience very high levels of oxidative stress, which leads to the death of most metastasizing cells,” said Dr. Sean Morrison. “Administration of antioxidants to the mice allowed more of the metastasizing melanoma cells to survive, increasing metastatic disease burden.”
“Cancer cells benefit more from antioxidants than normal cells do.”
The latest research provides a new perspective and raises questions about the theory that antioxidants can help ward off cancer and stop the growth of cancerous cells. It also casts a doubt on whether cancer patients should be treated with antioxidants as the use of dietary antioxidants is quite common in people having cancer.
“This finding opens up the possibility that when treating cancer, we should test whether increasing oxidative stress though the use of pro-oxidants would prevent metastasis,” said Morrison. “One potential approach is to target the folate pathway that melanoma cells use to survive oxidative stress, which would increase the level of oxidative stress in the cancer cells.”
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The study was published in Nature.