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WEDNESDAY, Jan. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Smokers and other people at high risk for lung cancer could make matters worse if they take antioxidant supplements, a new study of rodents suggests.
Antioxidants appear to accelerate cancer progression by short-circuiting one of the body's key immune responses to malignant cells, researchers from Sweden report.
Normal doses of vitamin E and smaller doses of the antioxidant supplement acetylcysteine increased the growth of tumors in mice with early lung cancer, the researchers reported in the Jan. 29 issue of Science Translational Medicine.
"We found that antioxidants caused a threefold increase in the number of tumors, and caused tumors to become more aggressive," senior author Dr. Martin Bergo said during a Tuesday news conference. "Antioxidants caused the mice to die twice as fast, and the effect was dose-dependent. If we gave a small dose, tumors grew a little. If we gave a high dose, tumors grew a lot."
Bergo, co-director of the Sahlgrenska Cancer Center at the University of Gothenburg, said the findings are particularly concerning because acetylcysteine is used to improve breathing in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. Most people who have COPD are current or former smokers.
Antioxidants are supposed to protect the body from disease by preventing cell damage caused by molecules called free radicals. "These radicals can damage almost anything inside the cell, including DNA, and DNA damage can lead to cancer," Bergo said.
But this protection backfires in people who already have cancerous or precancerous cells, the researchers said.
When the body detects cellular DNA damage that can lead to cancer, it releases a key tumor-suppressing protein called p53.
In laboratory tests with mouse and human cancer cells, researchers found that antioxidants suppress the release of p53 by halting DNA damage done to cancer cells by free radicals.
"By reducing the DNA damage, the antioxidant actually helps the cancer cells escape detection," co-author Per Lindahl, a professor of biochemistry and cell biology at the University of Gothenburg, said in the news conference.
The findings suggest that people carrying small undiagnosed tumors in their lungs should avoid taking extra antioxidants, the study concludes.
"If you have lung cancer, or if you have an increased risk of developing lung cancer, then taking extra antioxidants may be harmful and it could speed up the growth of a tumor," Bergo said.
While studies involving animals can be useful, they may fail to produce similar results in humans.
However, this isn't the first study to indicate that antioxidants are bad for cancer patients, said Peter Campbell, director of the Tumor Repository at the American Cancer Society.
Human trials conducted in the 1980s and 1990s found that the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E substantially increased the incidence of lung cancer in smokers, he said.
"This study doesn't stick out like a sore thumb," Campbell said. "We've known for some time that some of these agents tend to backfire. It's nice to have laboratory evidence to corroborate what we've seen in human populations."
The human body creates its own antioxidants, and is built to use additional antioxidants gained from the food a person eats, Campbell said. By taking antioxidant supplements, people could be defeating the body's ability to fight cancer and disease.
"There is a food supplement industry that has done a really good job marketing itself, suggesting that if we take these molecules normally found in food we will have better health and, well, a little is good so a whole lot would be better," Campbell said. "There are very intricate, complicated pathways that are supposed to sense and signal and destroy these precancerous cells. When our body doesn't turn that system on, these cancerous cells can proliferate."
However, the Swedish researchers stopped short of saying that no one should take antioxidants.
"If I had a patient with lung cancer, I would probably recommend they do not take extra antioxidants," Bergo said. "Would I make that recommendation with healthy people? Absolutely not."
For more about antioxidants and cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: Jan. 28, 2014, news briefing with: Martin Bergo, M.D., Ph.D., co-director, Sahlgrenska Cancer Center, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and Per Lindahl, professor of biochemistry and cell biology, University of Gothenburg; Peter Campbell, Ph.D., director, Tumor Repository, American Cancer Society; Jan. 29, 2014, Science Translational Medicine
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Thu Jan 30, 2014 01:51 PM
that is very interesting -- it is kind of scary to think that a recommendation of a vitamin or medicine which could contain antioxidants could cause more harm than good to a patient fighting cancer -- g.ps may not be aware of this - as they are not specialied in a particular field - and only have general knowledge of alot of the treatments out there to fight cancer.
Thu Jan 30, 2014 06:02 PM
Thurs Jan 30, 2014
This news makes me feel like I'm putting nails in the coffin. I'm exhausted from searching and looking for information about cancer cures.
Thu Jan 30, 2014 06:35 PM
I, too, find these early results daunting. How to know when we are helping or hurting our odds?
I take prescribed supplements some of which are antioxidants. Even thought this research adds complexity to my next steps, I do value you sharing it.
Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:43 PM
In a paper that he published at this time last year, Dr. James Watson (co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix configuration) alluded to this exact same thing - more specifically with the resistance to ROS in late-stage cancers. I was intrigued by this brilliant minds take on the dismal failure of the War on Cancer started back in the 70's by President Nixon. It's a great paper to read and not too technical. although it had taken me some time absorb. Here is the link - Oxidants, antioxidants and the current incurability of metastatic cancershttp://rsob.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/1/120144.full
Thu Feb 06, 2014 07:50 PM
Well, that's just great! I have just been diagnosed with the beginnings of macular degeneration, and my opthomologist prescribed special vitamins for that ailment, which have very high doses of vitamins A,C, and E. What am I supposed to do now?
Tue Feb 11, 2014 02:41 AM
Wed Feb 12, 2014 04:26 PM
Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, January 31, 2014 Natural Vitamin E Prevents, Reverses Lung Cancer Your "Pharmaphilic" Media Botches Another Story by Andrew W. Saul, Editor (OMNS Jan 31, 2014) Yet another media hatchet job on vitamin E is, predictably, getting lots of attention. This particular attack is just one more in an embarrassingly long series. It is based on a recent study proclaiming that vitamin E promotes cancer. (Sayin et al. Antioxidants accelerate lung cancer progression in mice. Sci Transl Med 29 January 2014: 6: 221 http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/6/221/221ra15 ) Well, with a highfalutin' study like that, they might at least have used real vitamin E. They didn't. I have searched the original paper. They mention "vitamin E" over and over and over again. However, the words "d-alpha tocopherol," or "mixed natural tocopherols," do not appear in the paper, at all, except in one reference citation. Why? Because that is what natural vitamin E is called. If the researchers had taken the trouble to use natural vitamin E, it would likely have reduced cancer. For example: Taking 300 IU of natural vitamin E per day reduces lung cancer by 61%. (Mahabir S, Schendel K, Dong YQ et al. Dietary alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherols in lung cancer risk. Int J Cancer. 2008 Sep 1;123(5):1173-80.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18546288 Of Course Synthetic Vitamin E is Less Effective With a careful search through a lot of jargon, you will discover that the negative study used DL-a-tocopheryl acetate, a synthetic pseudo-vitamin E. However, real "vitamin E" is actually eight different biochemical forms, alpha-, beta-, delta- and gamma tocopherols, and alpha-, beta-, delta-, and gamma-tocotrienols. The much-touted "vitamin-E-causes-lung-cancer" study ignores this. I believe that the authors were so embarrassed that they selected synthetic vitamin E, which almost anyone knows to be inferior, that they quietly stated only once, in their entire paper, what kind of "E" they used. If I am wrong, let them prove otherwise. OMNS invites and will publish their rebuttal to this editorial. And, the authors utterly ignored tocotrienols. Look for that word in their study condemning vitamin E. Look really hard. It is not there. The word tocotrienol does not appear in the paper. Not once. Why? Because gamma tocotrienol is known to destroy cancer stem cells. Research published in the International Journal of Cancer has shown that gamma-tocotrienol, a cofactor found in natural vitamin E preparations, actually kills prostate cancer stem cells. These are the very cells from which prostate cancer develops. They are or quickly become chemotherapy-resistant. And yet natural vitamin E complex contains the very thing to kill them. Mice given gamma-tocotrienol orally had an astonishing 75% decrease in tumor formation. (Sze Ue Luk1, Wei Ney Yap, Yung-Tuen Chiu et al. Gamma-tocotrienol as an effective agent in targeting prostate cancer stem cell-like population. International Journal of Cancer, 2011. Vol 128, No 9, p 2182-2191. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/1...25546/abstract ) Gamma-tocotrienol also is effective against existing prostate tumors. (Nesaretnam K, Teoh HK, Selvaduray KR, Bruno RS, Ho E. Modulation of cell growth and apoptosis response in human prostate cancer cells supplemented with tocotrienols. Eur. J. Lipid Sci. Technol. 2008, 110, 23-31. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/1...00068/abstract. And: Conte C, Floridi A, Aisa C et al. Gamma-tocotrienol metabolism and antiproliferative effect in prostate cancer cells. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2004. 1031: 391-4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1...t=AbstractPlus Set Up to Fail Synthetic vitamin E was selected. It did not work. Natural vitamin E was not used. Tocotrienols were not used. I challenge any scientist or journalist to try to explain these omissions away. Based on USDA data ( http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocente...mins/vitaminE/ ; scroll down to "Deficiency"), an astonishing 90% of Americans do not get the RDA of vitamin E. Tell people not to take vitamin E, and they will be dropping like flies. The medical media should be ashamed of themselves. To learn more about how vitamin E and other antioxidants fight cancer: Vitamin E Attacked Again. Of Course. Because It Works. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v07n11.shtml Vitamin C Slows Cancer Down: And, Doctors Say, Can Reverse It as Well. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v04n19.shtml Antioxidants Prevent Cancer and Some May Even Cure It. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v09n02.shtml Vitamins Decrease Lung Cancer Risk by 50% http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v07n13.shtml Vitamin E Prevents Lung Cancer: News Media Virtually Silent on Positive Vitamin Research http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v04n18.shtml Nutritional Medicine is Orthomolecular Medicine Orthomolecular medicine uses safe, effective nutritional therapy to fight illness. For more information: http://www.orthomolecular.org Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, October 29, 2008 Vitamin E Prevents Lung Cancer News Media Virtually Silent on Positive Vitamin Research (OMNS, October 29, 2008) Researchers at the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center have found that taking more vitamin E substantially reduces lung cancer. Their new study shows that people consuming the highest amounts of vitamin E had the greatest benefit. When they compared persons taking the most vitamin E with those taking the least, there was a 61% reduction in lung cancer risk. (1) Lung cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer on earth; over 1.3 million people are diagnosed with it each year. With medical treatment, survival rates are "consistently poor," says Cancer Research UK. Lung cancer kills nearly 1.2 million per year. It accounts for 12% of all cancers, but results in 18% of all cancer deaths. (2) Anything that can reduce these dismal facts is important news . . .very important. Yet the mainstream media have virtually ignored vitamin E's important role as a cancer fighter. A sixty-one percent reduction in lung cancer with vitamin E? How could the news media have missed this one? The news media probably did not miss it: they simply did not report it. They are biased. You can see for yourself what bias there is. Try a "Google" search for any of the major newspapers or broadcast media, using the name of the news organization along with the phrase "vitamin E lung cancer." When you do, you will find that it will quickly bring up previous items alleging that vitamin E might (somehow) increase cancer risk. You will find little or nothing at all on how vitamin E prevents cancer. Indeed, the bias is so strong that even a qualified search for "increased vitamin E reduces lung cancer" will still, and preferentially, bring up media coverage alleging that vitamin E is harmful. Negative reporting sells newspapers and pulls in viewing audiences. The old editors' adage must still be true: "If it bleeds, it leads." Here's more positive vitamin E cancer research that the media "missed." A study in 2002 looked at patients with colon cancer "who received a daily dose of 750 mg of vitamin E during a period of 2 weeks. Short-term supplementation with high doses of dietary vitamin E leads to increased CD4:CD8 ratios and to enhanced capacity by their T cells to produce the T helper 1 cytokines interleukin 2 and IFN-gamma. In 10 of 12 patients, an increase of 10% or more (average, 22%) in the number of T cells producing interleukin 2 was seen after 2 weeks of vitamin E supplementation." The authors concluded that "dietary vitamin E may be used to improve the immune functions in patients with advanced cancer." That improvement was achieved in a mere two weeks merits special attention. (3) Was it on the news? Did you hear about how high doses of vitamin E help cancer patients' immune systems in only two weeks? Why not? Might the answer possibly have anything to do with money? One cannot watch television or read a magazine or newspaper without it being obvious that drug company cash is one of the media's very largest sources of revenue. Given where their advertising income comes from, it is hardly a big surprise that media reporting on vitamins is biased. Well-publicized vitamin scares feed the pharmaceutical industry. Successful reports of safe, inexpensive vitamin therapy do not. One commentator has observed that pharmaceutical and other "corporations marshal huge public relations efforts on behalf of their agendas. In the United States the 170,000 public relations employees whose job it is to manipulate news, public opinion and public policy in the interests of their clients outnumber news reporters by 40,000." (4) Another commentator wrote that "Janine Jackson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a news media watchdog group, told the American Free Press that 60 percent of journalists surveyed by FAIR admitted that advertisers 'try to change stories (and) there is an overwhelming influence of corporations and advertisers' on broadcast and print news reporting." (5) Drug companies don't have any drug that can reduce lung cancer risk by 61%. If they did, you would have heard all about it in their advertisements. And it would be all over the news. Positive drug studies get the headlines. Positive vitamin studies rarely do. This is an enormous public health problem with enormous consequences. A cynic might say that press and television coverage of a vitamin study tends to be inversely proportionate to the study's clinical usefulness. Truly valuable research does not scare people; it helps people get well. It would be difficult to identify anything more helpful than actively reporting the story when a vitamin is shown to reduce lung cancer by 61%. The good news about how important high quantities of vitamin E are in combating cancer is not arising out of nowhere. A US National Library of Medicine MEDLINE search will bring up over 3,000 studies on the subject, some dating back to 1946. By the early 1950s, research clearly supported the use of vitamin E against cancer. (6) Before 1960, vitamin E was shown to reduce the side effects of radiation cancer treatment. (7) In reviewing vitamin E research, one notes that the high-dose studies got the best results. Vitamin E is not the sure cure for cancer. It is not certain prevention, either. Stopping cigarette smoking is essential. But vitamin E is part of the solution, and we need more of it. An independent panel of physicians and researchers (8) has recently called for increasing the daily recommended intake for vitamin E to 200 IU. The present US RDA/DRI is a mere 15-20 IU/day. It is time to raise it. A lot. References: (1) Mahabir S, Schendel K, Dong YQ, Barrera SL, Spitz MR, Forman MR. Dietary alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherols in lung cancer risk. Int J Cancer. 2008 Sep 1;123(5):1173-80. (2) http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/can...commoncancers/ (3) Malmberg KJ, Lenkei R, Petersson M et al. A short-term dietary supplementation of high doses of vitamin E increases T helper 1 cytokine production in patients with advanced colorectal cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2002 Jun; 8(6):1772-8. (4) Robbins R. Global problems and the culture of capitalism. Allyn and Bacon, 1999, p 138. http://www.globalissues.org/article/...nd-advertising (5) Prestage J. Mainstream journalism: Shredding the First Amendment. Online Journal, November 7, 2002. http://www.globalissues.org/article/...nd-advertising (6) Telford IR. The influence of alpha tocopherol on lung tumors in strain A mice. Tex Rep Biol Med. 1955;13(3):515-21. Swick RW, Baumann CA, Miller WL Jr, Rumsfeld HW Jr. Tocopherol in tumor tissues and effects of tocopherol on the development of liver tumors. Cancer Res. 1951 Dec;11(12):948-53. (7) Fischer W. [The protective effect of tocopherol against toxic phenomena connected with the roentgen irradiation of mammary carcinoma.] Munch Med Wochenschr. 1959 Sep 4;101:1487-8. German. Also: Sabatini C, Balli L, Tagliavini R. [Effects of vitamin E and testosterone in comparisons of skin exposed to high doses of roentgen rays administered by semi-contact technic.] Riforma Med. 1955 Apr 30;69(18):Suppl, 1-4. Italian. See also: Graham JB, Graham RM. Enhanced effectiveness of radiotherapy in cancer of the uterine cervix. Surg Forum. 1953;(38th Congress):332-8. (8) Doctors say, Raise the RDAs now. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, October 30, 2007. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v03n10.shtmlhttp://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v04n18.shtml
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