Pancreatic cancer is one of the leading problems throughout the world. A study team at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York discovers that decreasing levels of antioxidants in pancreatic cells can assist to kill them. This new approach for eliminating pancreatic cancer cells may open new ways for treating this serious condition, in which under 5 % of sufferers survive 5 years.
“Antioxidant” has become a well-known buzzword that is considered as a cure all notion for health problems; it is commonly considered that increasing levels of antioxidants halts cancer cells from growing.
Actually, although antioxidants interact with and neutralize free radicals and avoid them from triggering damage, there is minimal available proof that antioxidants prevent cancer.
In addition, studies have identified that individuals taking antioxidant supplements during cancer treatment have worse results, particularly if they were smokers.
Does raising antioxidant levels do more harm than good?
In a series of complex studies, the CSHL investigators show that in pancreatic cells that are irregular or in a malignant state, increasing antioxidant levels can do more damage than good.
In healthy cells, the ranges of oxidizing and anti-oxidizing agents are maintained precisely balanced in every cell.
On the other hand, in proliferating cancer cells – that are growing quickly in number through growth and cell division – the ranges of oxidants in malignant cells raise, but anti-oxidants also raise to counter the effect of rising oxidation.
CSHL’s Prof. David Tuveson and colleagues observe that devoid of the amounts of antioxidants rising in scale with the oxidants, malignant cells will die from extreme oxidation.
Iok In Christine Chio, a postdoctoral researcher in the Tuveson lab who led the experiments said,
“Obviously, that’s precisely what we want cancer cells to perform – to burn themselves out,”
“The therapeutic principle our lab is examining is whether, by growing the level of oxidation in cancer cells, we can trigger pre-malignant and malignant cells to die,” she adds.
Excessive oxidation leads to cells to commit suicide
Therapies for cancer like as radiation therapy and chemotherapy kill cancer cells by promoting oxidation. Although antioxidants secure cellular DNA from harm by oxidative stress, they probably protect cancer cells, too.
Subjecting cells to extreme oxidation leads them to experience programmed cell death known as apoptosis. A method of raising oxidation in cancer cells is to reduce levels of antioxidants within the same cells.
Tuveson and team targeted to discover a technique by which they could raise oxidation without damaging healthy cells. They focused on NRF2, a protein that can be tweaked to interrupt the balance between oxidation and reduced cancer cells.
When NRF2 is active, cells synthesize a chemical known as glutathione, an essential antioxidant. Nevertheless, it is not feasible to decrease NRF2 activity or make it inactive, as it has a function in regulating various hundred different genes. “One can’t remove it from a cell without affecting many other processes,” says Chio.
The study team used samples of pancreas cells from individuals with pancreatic cancer (malignant and pre-malignant) and people with a healthy pancreas to perform an research where NRF2 was eradicated.
Normal pancreatic cells not damaged by two-drug therapy
They identified that when NRF2 was missing, the process of translating messages from the genes into proteins was extremely impacted by the oxidant and antioxidant balance, but only in the cancer cells. The healthy cells were still capable to produce the proteins.
Iok In Christine Chio, said
We were very thrilled when we saw this. This recommended that if we could discover a way of decreasing antioxidants, protein synthesis would only be affected in precancerous and malignant cells, a possibly powerful therapeutic approach.”