High Doses of Selenium May Protect Against Ovarian Cancer

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A new study, published in Redux Biology, finds that high doses of selenium have anti-cancer properties.

Since the micronutrient can be toxic at high levels, an international research team from Swansea University and Université Grenoble Alpes, worked with selenium nanoparticles. They found them to be highly effective at killing ovarian cancer cell models grown in 3D to replicate the native tumor environment.

The researchers also identified a new biological mechanism that explains how selenium causes this anti-cancer effect. Specifically, selenium alters the activity of enzymes called histone methyltransferases, which regulate epigenetic processes that alter how genes function. Unlike genetic mutations, epigenetic changes are reversible but can change how the body reads a DNA sequence.

Steve Conlan, PhD, who leads the Reproductive Biology and Gynecological Oncology group at Swansea University Medical School, called the study a tremendous scientific research effort. He added that the discovery demonstrated the importance of international and interdisciplinary partnerships in scientific discovery.

The team hopes that their findings will lead to new insights into the action of selenium nanoparticles and says it is now important to further investigate the action of selenium as a cancer therapy, considering both its classic antioxidant and novel histone methylation effects.

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