New developments in Breast Cancer and Cancer from Google Alerts for the week ending 4 July 2014.
The first article steps straight into the controversy about the use of antioxidants in cancer patients. Some doctors/scientists believe that they actually protect the cancer cells; however, another school believes that antioxidants can protect healthy cells from free radicals and prevent further cancer formation.
What I found interesting was that finally there was a plausible explanation for why taking antioxidant pills or eating vast quantities of foods rich in antioxidants may be failing to show a beneficial effect against cancer.
It has to do with the fact that cancer cells generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) – aka free radicals – in order to grow and antioxidants “do not act at the critical site in cells where tumor-promoting ROS are produced – at cellular energy factories called mitochondria.”
Rather, supplements and dietary antioxidants tend to accumulate at scattered distant sites in the cell, “leaving tumor-promoting ROS relatively unperturbed.”
So the dilemma still remains for those cancer patients who pop pills: antioxidant supplements or no?
Update: thank you to reader JT who pointed out this study which showed that antioxidant supplementation during chemotherapy is beneficial: Cancer Treatment Reviews, 2007 Aug;33(5):407-18, Impact of antioxidant supplementation on chemotherapeutic efficacy: a systematic review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials [full paper]. One of the authors of the study is Dr Keith Block of the Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Education, Illinois, USA, which lends the study clinical authority. See also this fantastic study sent by JT: http://virtualtrials.com/pdf/williamssupplements2014.pdf – The Role of Supplements (including Anti-Oxidants) in Cancer Treatment.
1. How antioxidants can accelerate cancers, and why they don’t protect against them