Cold remedy reduces cancer aggressiveness by up to 80%


An over-the-counter High Street supplement reduces breast cancer aggressiveness by up to 80 per cent, new research reveals.

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), which is sold as a supplement in Holland & Barrett in the UK and is approved as a cold remedy in the US, significantly lowers levels of the breast cancer aggressiveness marker MCT4, a study found.

Study author Professor Michael Lisanti from the University of Salford, said: ‘High levels of MCT4 are extremely worrying as they are linked to aggressive cancer behavior and poor overall survival, so this is [a] very encouraging result.’

‘To be able to inhibit MCT4 protein expression, in a non-toxic way, is huge step forward.’ 

It is unclear how the researchers came to investigate NAC, a protein, in breast cancer, however, it contains antioxidants that cause tumours to release nutrients they need to thrive, preventing tumour growth.

As the protein’s acceptable side effects, such as nausea, have already been demonstrated in colds and flu, the researchers hope NAC may offer a low-toxicity alternative treatment option for breast cancer patients.

An over-the-counter cold  remedy reduces breast cancer aggressiveness by up to 80 per cent

An over-the-counter cold  remedy reduces breast cancer aggressiveness by up to 80 per cent

An over-the-counter cold remedy reduces breast cancer aggressiveness by up to 80 per cent

WHAT IS N-ACETYLCYSTEINE? 

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is a protein that contains the amino acid L-cysteine.

It also contains antioxidants that strengthen the immune system and prevent cell damage.

NAC can prevent the build-up of mucus in respiratory illnesses.

Side effects many include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  

How the research was carried out 

The researchers analysed 12 women with newly-diagnosed early-stage breast cancer.

The study’s participants were treated with NAC before undergoing surgery to remove their tumours.

They received a once-weekly intravenous dose and two oral doses on the other days for an average of 19 days.

Biopsies of the participants’ tumours were taken after surgery and analysed for markers of cancer aggressiveness.

Cancer aggressiveness reduced by up to 80% 

Results reveal MCT4 was reduced by 80 per cent, while another marker of cancer aggressiveness, known as Ki67, decreased by 25 per cent.

The researchers believe their findings offer a potential inexpensive cancer treatment with low toxicity as its safety has already been demonstrated in colds.

Professor Lisanti said: ‘High levels of ‘MCT4 are extremely worrying as they are linked to aggressive cancer behavior and poor overall survival, so this is [a] very encouraging result.’

‘To be able to inhibit MCT4 protein expression, in a non-toxic way, is huge step forward.’ 

The findings were published in the journal Seminars in Oncology. 

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) significantly lowers levels of the breast cancer marker MCT4

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) significantly lowers levels of the breast cancer marker MCT4

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) significantly lowers levels of the breast cancer marker MCT4

Cold remedy ‘starves’ cancer of nutrients 

NAC has antioxidant properties, which causes cancer cells to release nutrients they need to thrive.

This may ‘starve’ tumours, preventing their growth. 

Professor Lisanti said: ‘Our idea was to repurpose an inexpensive FDA-approved drug, to examine if its antioxidant properties could target the feeding behavior of cancer cells.’



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