The conventional wisdom of how antioxidants such as vitamin C help prevent cancer growth is that they grab up volatile oxygen free radical molecules and prevent the damage they are known to do to our delicate DNA. The Hopkins study, led by Chi Dang, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and oncology and Johns Hopkins Family Professor in Oncology Research, unexpectedly found that the antioxidants’ actual role may be to destabilize a tumor’s ability to grow under oxygen-starved conditions. Their work is detailed this week in Cancer Cell.
“The potential anticancer benefits of antioxidants have been the driving force for many clinical and preclinical studies,” says Dang. “By uncovering the mechanism behind antioxidants, we are now better suited to maximize their therapeutic use.”
“Once again, this work demonstrates the irreplaceable value of letting researchers follow their scientific noses wherever it leads them,” Dang adds.
The authors do caution that while vitamin C is still essential for good health, this study is preliminary and people should not rush out and buy bulk supplies of antioxidants as a means of cancer prevention.
The Johns Hopkins investigators discovered the surprise antioxidant mechanism while looking at mice implanted with either human lymphoma (a blood cancer) or human liver cancer cells. Both of these cancers produce high levels of free radicals that can be suppressed by feeding the mice supplements of antioxidants, either vitamin C or N-acetylcysteine (NAC).
However, when the Hopkins team examined cancer cells from cancer-implanted mice not fed the antioxidants, they noticed the absence of any significant DNA damage. “Clearly, if DNA damage was not in play as a cause of the cancer, then whatever the antioxidants were doing to help was also not related to DNA damage,” says Ping Gao, Ph.D, lead author of the paper.
That conclusion led Gao and Dang to suspect that some other mechanism was involved, such as a protein known to be dependent on free radicals called HIF-1 (hypoxia-induced factor), which was discovered over a decade ago by Hopkins researcher and co-author Gregg Semenza, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Program in Vascular Cell Engineering. Indeed, they found that while this protein was abundant in untreated cancer cells taken from the mice, it disappeared in vitamin C-treated cells taken from similar animals.
“When a cell lacks oxygen, HIF-1 helps it compensate,” explains Dang. “HIF-1 helps an oxygen-starved cell convert sugar to energy without using oxygen and also initiates the construction of new blood vessels to bring in a fresh oxygen supply.”
Some rapidly growing tumors consume enough energy to easily suck out the available oxygen in their vicinity, making HIF-1 absolutely critical for their continued survival. But HIF-1 can only operate if it has a supply of free radicals. Antioxidants remove these free radicals and stop HIF-1, and the tumor, in its tracks.
The authors confirmed the importance of this “hypoxia protein” by creating cancer cells with a genetic variant of HIF-1 that did not require free radicals to be stable. In these cells, antioxidants no longer had any cancer-fighting power.
Nick Zagorski | EurekAlert!
Flow of cerebrospinal fluid regulates neural stem cell division
21.05.2018 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Chemists at FAU successfully demonstrate imine hydrogenation with inexpensive main group metal
21.05.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.
Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...
A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.
Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.05.2018 | Information Technology
18.05.2018 | Information Technology