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After conducting research on mice with cancer, researchers at the University of Texas Southern medical center have found that antioxidants protected the cancerous cells and allowed them to flourish. The food items that are rich in antioxidants are green teas and blueberries. Antioxidants have been associated with better health and anti-cancer benefits in many studies conducted in the past. However, they may not be as good for individuals who are suffering from cancer.

During the research period, Sean Morrison, from the University of Texas Southern medical center and his team, divided mice in two categories. They gave one group of mice N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a commonly used antioxidant, and another group of mice nothing. Researchers found higher levels of cancer in the blood of mice with NAC antioxidant along with an increased number of tumors.

This isn’t the first study to show that some cancer patients had tumors that actually increased in size when being treated with antioxidants, but this research is alarming given that the metastasis seen in mice is indicative of how these same cells would metastasize in humans.

Antioxidants — which include vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, and are contained in thousands of foods — are thought to protect cells from damage by acting as defenders against something called "free radicals" which the body produces as a part of metabolism or that can enter through the environment. That's all great for normal cells but in case of cancer cells, they might help them flourish. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that antioxidants could lead to spread of cancer as they are helping the cancer cells as well.

In order to gain stability, unstable free radicals steam electrons from nearby molecules, making the other molecule a free radical, which steals electron from other molecules forming a cascade. This process of chain of free radicals can actually disrupt cellular functions, damage DNA and can cause harm to body. But, this cascade of electron theft can be stopped by antioxidant, which has the ability of donate its electron to free radical without becoming unstable.

Researcher Sean Morrison and his colleagues conducted experiments on mice that had been transplanted with skin cancer cells (melanoma) from human patients. They gave nothing to one group. To the other they gave doses of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) which is a common antioxidant that's used in nutritional and bodybuilding supplements and has been used as a treatment for patients with HIV/AIDS and in some children with certain genetic disorders.

The results were alarming: Those in the second group had markedly higher levels of cancer cells in their blood, grew more tumors and the tumors were larger and more widespread than in the second.

“This finding also opens up the possibility that when treating cancer, we should test whether increasing oxidative stress through the use of pro-oxidants would prevent metastasis,” said Dr. Morrison. “One potential approach is to target the folate pathway that melanoma cells use to survive oxidative stress, which would increase the level of oxidative stress in the cancer cells.” - See more at:

Abnormal cell migration and invasion underlie metastasis, and actomyosin contractility is a key regulator of tumor invasion. The links between cancer migratory behavior and DNA damage are poorly understood. Using 3D collagen systems to recapitulate melanoma extracellular matrix, the team analyzed the relationship between the actomyosin cytoskeleton of migrating cells and DNA damage.

Results: Melanoma cells with low levels of Rho-ROCK–driven actomyosin are subjected to oxidative stress-dependent DNA damage and ATM-mediated p53 protein stabilization. This results in a specific transcriptional signature enriched in DNA damage/oxidative stress responsive genes, including Tumor Protein p53 Inducible Protein 3 (TP53I3 or PIG3). PIG3, which functions in DNA damage repair, uses an unexpected catalytic mechanism to suppress Rho-ROCK activity and impair tumor invasion in vivo.

Researchers said that the relationship between antioxidants and free radicals should not be surprising. By the end of the research, researchers are not confirmed whether antioxidants are bad for health. Though, past studies have revealed that eating fruits and vegetables and diets rich in antioxidants lower cancer rates, people suffering from cancer are not advised to increase their intake of antioxidants.

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