Antioxidants are touted for their health-promoting effects, and they mostly do have beneficial effects. However, a new study on the antidiabetic supplement alpha-lipoic acid shows that it can help to spread existing cancers. The diabetes drugs saxagliptin and sitagliptin were also shown to spread cancer.
Researchers from the University of Arizona and colleagues from the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China exposed human liver, breast, colon, ovarian, and other cancer cells to the drugs and to alpha-lipoic acid.
These compounds made cancer cells migrate more easily. A small follow-up study in rodents was conducted. Mice were implanted with human tumors, and they were then treated with one of the compounds or a saline solution every day for six weeks. The mice who were treated with any of the compounds had accelerated metastasis (cancer spreading).
Specifically, these compounds induced an antioxidant response, causing increased cancer cell migration, and promotion of metastasis in mice implanted with human tumors. The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Study co-author Hongting Zheng of the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China said:
"The most important finding is that some antidiabetic agents... promote the metastasis of existing cancers by activating [an antioxidant response]."
Whether these effects will occur in humans is unknown.
Martin Bergö, a cancer biologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, asserts:
"Giving an antioxidant to a tumor cell is like petting it. Groups all over the world are starting to find this [and] this paper really adds to the urgency."
This study contradicts previous research that shows anti-cancer effects of alpha-lipoic acid.
Patients on saxagliptin, sitagliptin, or alpha-lipoic acid should discuss the risks of these compounds with their doctor, and should not stop taking these compounds without their doctor's approval.
I sell supplements on my website, but until we determine the effects of alpha-lipoic acid supplements on existing cancers in humans, I strongly advise you against using this supplement if it's not recommended by your doctor.
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