Cold Spring Harbor, NY "Although mortality from many cancers has been steadily falling, particularly those of the blood [i.e., leukemias], the more important statistic may be that so many epithelial cancers (carcinomas) and effectively all mesenchymal cancers (sarcomas) remain largely incurable."
With these words as preface, Nobel laureate James D. Watson, Ph.D., in a newly published paper that he regards "among my most important work since the double helix," sets forth a novel hypothesis regarding the role of oxidants and antioxidants in cancers that are currently incurable, notably in late-stage metastatic cancers.
At the heart of his thesis are the group of molecules that scientists call reactive oxygen species, or ROS. Noting their fundamental two-sidedness, Watson calls ROS "a positive force for life" because of their role in apoptosis an internal program that highly stressed cells use to commit suicide. It's one of the key mechanisms that have arisen through eons of evolution to weed out biological dysfunction that poses a threat to the survival of organisms. On the other hand, ROS are also well understood indeed are notorious "for their ability to irreversibly damage key proteins and nucleic acid molecules [e.g., DNA and RNA]."
When they're not needed to curb wayward or out of control cells, which is to say under normal circumstances, ROS are constantly being neutralized by anti-oxidative proteins. We are often urged to eat foods rich in antioxidants such as blueberries; but, if Watson is correct about the role of ROS and antioxidants in late-stage cancer, as he writes in his new paper, "blueberries best be eaten because they taste good, not because their consumption will lead to less cancer."
Understanding why this might be so why antioxidants can in late-stage cancers actually promote cancer progression -- is central to Watson's paper, which appears online January 9 in Open Biology, a journal of Gr
|Contact: Peter Tarr|
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory