Chondroitin sulfate, a dietary supplement taken to strengthen joints, can speed the growth of a type of melanoma, according to experiments conducted in cell culture and mouse models.
The results are scheduled for publication in Molecular Cell.
One particular mutation in the B-raf gene (V600E) can be found in about half of melanomas. Jing Chen, PhD and colleagues found that chondroitin sulfate can boost growth by melanoma cells carrying the V600E mutation, but not other melanoma cells. Chondroitin sulfate, given to mice with implanted V600E tumors, has a similar effect at levels comparable to those seen in humans when it is used as a dietary supplement. V600E tumors in mice fed with chondroitin sulfate also showed resistance to vemurafenib, a small molecule B-raf inhibitor currently used to treat V600E-positive melanoma patients.
While unconfirmed in human epidemiological studies, the findings are a warning to oncologists, and people at an elevated risk of melanoma, regarding potential risks of dietary supplements. Chondroitin sulfate, a structural component of cartilage, is often recommended for the treatment of osteoarthritis, in combination with other compounds such as glucosamine.
It is possible that someone with precancerous lesions containing the V600E mutation, who takes chondroitin sulfate, might accelerate
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