Williams Cancer Institute

Selenium in Cancer Treatment

Selenium was first discovered in 1817 by Jöns Jacob Berzelius, it’s named after “Selene” the Greek Goddess of the moon. Selenium is found in a few rare minerals. It is an essential trace element for some species, including humans. Our bodies contain about 14 milligrams, and every cell in a human body contains more than a million selenium atoms. Selenium has been shown to have an immune-boosting and immune suppressing effect. It’s boosting effects are due to it’s involvement in enhancing activation and proliferation of B cells and/or it’s ability to promote immune cell differentiation; in a study conducted by Hoffman et al. demonstrated that supplementing this element in mice promoted T cell receptor signaling that pushed T cell differentiation toward Th1 by increasing interlukin -2 and interferon gamma production; another study in human subjects showed that selenium supplementation resulted in substantially higher levels of both Th1 and Th2 and, also increased plasma selenium levels. In cancer, selenium down-regulates Hypoxia-Inducible Factor (produced by cancer cells as response to hypoxia that promotes angiogenesis to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the growing tumor) leading to the downregulation in expression of several genes involved in angiogenesis such as VEGF. Selenium also helps with DNA repair in response to DNA-damaging agents improving the effectiveness of chemotherapeutic agents and protecting normal cells from their toxicity. Also, it was shown to reduce drug detoxification and increase cytotoxic effects of anti-cancer drugs in cancer cells and increasing detoxification and reducing cytotoxic effects in normal tissues by maintaining redox homeostasis.

Reference: Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics, College of Pharmacy University of Iowa, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology and Oncology, University of Iowa, Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Iowa, Department of Internal Medicine, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 2022 Feb 17, Potential Role of Selenium in the Treatment of Cancer and Viral Infections, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8879146/#:~:text=Selenium%20was%20first%20suggested%20as,have%20chemopreventive%20properties%20%5B20%5D

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