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Antioxidants could be key to cancer treatment

Sorry, Newsweek — antioxidants could treat cancer.

Those Newsweek editors aren’t going to be happy about this.

Remember last week’s e-Tip about Newsweek’s ridiculous story claiming antioxidants are bad for you — and Dr. Wright’s spot-on response (“Are antioxidants bad for you,” 2/16/11)?

Dr. Wright, of course, did a bang-up job debunking their claims. But the timing couldn’t be better on this very big news about just how powerful antioxidants can be.

Those in the know have long suspected how powerful antioxidants can be — after all, antioxidant drugs are already used to treat serious illnesses like lung disease and malaria.

And of course, there are some who have said that, despite these applications, we’ve been underestimating the extent of the power of antioxidants. But there has been something missing to support this argument — genetic evidence.

Until now, that is.

Antioxidant Researchers from Thomas Jefferson University’s Kimmel Cancer Center have found genetic evidence that antioxidants could help prevent and treat cancer because they fight against one of the very things that drives tumor growth: oxidative stress.

In findings published in the journal Cancer Biology & Therapy, the researchers explain that they found that oxidative stress at the mitochondrial level is a key in driving tumor growth.

The short version: “Reducing oxidative stress in the body will decrease tumor growth.”

Of course, the researchers see this as a sign that new anti-cancer drugs targeting such oxidative stress need to be developed. Right now, such drugs aren’t used because they threaten the effectiveness of chemotherapy — some chemo treatments increase oxidative stress.

So, this research isn’t just a blow to Newsweek’s bad reporting, but a bit of a blow to the biggest tool in cancer treatment, too.

The researchers also point out the availability of antioxidant supplements, including the amino acid metabolite N-acetyl cysteine (which is often taken to boost the immune system). So, I guess we can thank them for a little supplement shout-out.

“Researchers Provide Genetic Evidence That Antioxidants Can Help Treat Cancer,” Thomas Jefferson University via Newswise (