A study published in Science Translational Medicine shows that small molecules that specifically inhibit an important selenium-containing enzyme may be useful in combating cancer. When researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden treated cancer in mice using these molecules, they observed rapid tumoricidal effects. Researchers now hope that this new principle for cancer treatment will eventually be developed for use in humans.
Humans need the chemical element selenium for good health. The selenium-containing enzyme thioredoxin reductase 1 (TrxR1) can be used to support the growth of various cells and to protect them from harmful forms of oxygen radicals, known as oxidative stress. Selenium intake has long been a topic of discussion in connection with cancer, although results have proved inconclusive and the correlation between selenium intake and cancer growth is extremely complex.
Raised levels of TrxR1 can be seen in several forms of cancer and are linked to worse prognoses in head and neck, lung and breast cancers. Researchers therefore analysed almost 400,000 different molecules in the search for new and more specific TrxR1 inhibitors than those previously available. They discovered three different molecules that met their search criteria. Sure enough, when tested, these same molecules also proved to be
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