Antioxidants can & # 039; feed & # 039; some cancers, scientists discover

Taking vitamin E – an antioxidant supplement thought to have protective effects against cancer – may stimulate the spread of the disease in some cancer patients, a new study suggests.

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New research from New York University (NYU) found that vitamin E could block the self-destructive tendencies of certain lung cancers.

Antioxidants can actually protect these tumors from destroying themselves, instead helping them spread.

They advise that lung cancer patients stay away from vitamin E and that patients in a broader sense should not assume that antioxidants are always the right way to fight cancer.

The antioxidant vitamin E would help clean up carcinogenic free radicals, but new research shows how it can nourish the spread of a common lung cancer

The antioxidant vitamin E would help clean up carcinogenic free radicals, but new research shows how it can nourish the spread of a common lung cancer

Oxygen molecules constantly split into the body and release chemicals, the so-called free radicals.

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Free radicals are unstable and can run around wreaking havoc on other cells.

In peak condition, the body can control the number and activity of free radicals, but if the body has too much & # 39; oxidative stress & # 39; temporary chemical waste products can damage cells, DNA and proteins.

High oxidative stress is involved in aging and has been associated with an increased risk of various diseases and chronic conditions, including cancer.

However, antioxidants work as neutralizing agents.

These compounds can be found in vitamin C, beta carotene and vitamin E to name just a few.

Balanced diets that consist of many fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, berries, spinach and also nuts and green tea are rich in antioxidants.

Once ingested, angi-oxidants bind to free radicals and prevent them from confusing other cells or DNA and encouraging mutations – including mutations that promote cancer development.

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So many studies have suggested that diets with a lot of antioxidants or taking antioxidant supplements can reduce the risk of cancer.

But we also know that the relationship between oxidative stress, free radicals and cancer is not that simple – and the new research, published in the journal Cell, paints a clearer picture of how antioxidants can actually stimulate cancer.

We know that we need free radicals that play an important role in how we extract energy from the raw materials of air and food that we consume, and that help our immune system.

They also appear to have a paradoxical effect on adenocarcinomas, which make up around 40 percent of lung cancers according to the new study.

What makes these cancers dangerous is their ability to spread or metastasize to other parts of the body. This has already happened when about 22 percent of the diagnoses were made.

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Through work on mouse models, the NYU team discovered that cancer cells produce their own self-destructive by-products.

They also found that a protein called BACH1 helps cancer to migrate and spread.

Tumors that are positive for a certain gene mutation that stimulates the production of antioxidants in the body can be spread particularly aggressively. Approximately 30 percent of non-small cell lung cancers have this mutation.

These patients also have shorter survival times.

Persistent, high levels of antioxidants – caused by the mutation – protect BACH 1 proteins against self-destructive cancer tendencies and stimulate the spread of the disease, the researchers said.

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So the antioxidants that a cancer patient could take to keep oxidative stress low could actually feed their disease.

According to NYU researchers, the good news is that a drug that can block this path to migration may already be on the market.

"Our results ultimately clarify the web of mechanisms surrounding the BACH 1 signal, suggesting that an already approved drug class may inhibit the spread of cancer in approximately 30 percent of lung adenocarcinoma patients," says senior study author Dr. Michele Pagano, president of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at the NYU School of Medicine.

On the other hand, her co-author Dr. Thales Papagiannakopoulos, a pathology professor at NYU, said: For patients with lung cancer, taking vitamin E can cause the same increase in cancer's ability to spread as the NRF2 and KEAP1 mutations that our team has linked to shorter survival.

& # 39; We hope these findings help dispel the myth that antioxidants such as vitamin E help prevent any type of cancer. & # 39;

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