Researchers have found that, while antioxidants may be able to prevent cancer in healthy people, they might have the opposite effect on people who’ve already been diagnosed with cancer.
This is the conclusion of researchers at the University of Texas, UPI reported this week, who discovered the reverse effect during a test on mice with melanoma.
Antioxidants do just as their name says — they prevent the oxidation of cells, which eventually leads to their death. Melanoma cells which have metastasized (spread) undergo a tremendous amount of oxidative stress, researchers said.
So, when antioxidants are administered to an organism with melanoma, they actually reduce the oxidative stress of the cancer cells and help them spread throughout the body.
According to a press release from the University of Texas, scientists implanted melanoma cells into mice. Like most cancer cells, the melanoma cells struggled to survive once they entered the blood stream.
Yet when antioxidants were administered to the mice, a report from The Washington Post reported, the results proved the opposite.
Researcher Dr. Sean Morrison said the treatment “increased” the cancer cells’ ability to spread throughout the body.
Administration of antioxidants to the mice allowed more of the metastasizing melanoma cells to survive, increasing metastatic disease burden.
The implications of their research brought to light other cancer trials in which patients were given antioxidants to help combat their disease.
As one would guess based on the recent study, the patients would not have benefited from the treatments. Morrison was quoted as saying this is exactly what happened. Cancer patients in the trials “were dying faster.”
Some of those trials were stopped because the patients getting the antioxidants were dying faster. Our data suggest the reason for this: cancer cells benefit more from antioxidants than normal cells do.
Morrison was quoted as saying the findings may lead to further research on how pro-oxidants, as opposed to anti-oxidants, could help kill cancer cells.