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Researchers link popular dietary supplement with cancer

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Washington | November 12, 2022 6:01:45 PM IST
While earlier research connected commercial dietary supplements like nicotinamide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B3, to advantages for cardiovascular, metabolic, and neurological health, new research from the University of Missouri has discovered NR may actually increase the risk of serious illness, including developing cancer.

High levels of NR were found to not only increase the risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer but also to increase the likelihood that cancer will metastasize or spread to the brain, according to the findings of an international team of researchers led by Elena Goun, an associate professor of chemistry at MU.

According to Goun, the study's corresponding author, once cancer spreads to the brain, there are no effective treatment options available.

"Some people take them [vitamins and supplements] because they automatically assume that vitamins and supplements only have positive health benefits, but very little is known about how they actually work," Goun said. "Because of this lack of knowledge, we were inspired to study the basic questions surrounding how vitamins and supplements work in the body."

Goun was inspired by her father's death to work toward a better scientific understanding of cancer metabolism, or the energy through which cancer spreads in the body after her 59-year-old father passed away only three months after being diagnosed with colon cancer.

Goun wanted to look into NR's role in the growth and spread of cancer because NR is a known supplement for helping to increase levels of cellular energy, and cancer cells feed off of that energy with their increased metabolism.

"Our work is especially important given the wide commercial availability and a large number of ongoing human clinical trials where NR is used to mitigate the side effects of cancer therapy in patients," Goun said.

The researchers used this technology to compare and examine how much NR levels were present in cancer cells, T cells and healthy tissues.

"While NR is already being widely used in people and is being investigated in so many ongoing clinical trials for additional applications, much of how NR works is a black box -- it's not understood," Goun said. "So that inspired us to come up with this novel imaging technique based on ultrasensitive bioluminescent imaging that allows quantification of NR levels in real-time in a non-invasive manner. The presence of NR is shown with light, and the brighter the light is, the more NR is present."

The study's findings, according to Goun, highlight the significance of thoroughly examining the potential adverse effects of supplements like NR before their use in individuals who may have a variety of health issues.

In the future, Goun hopes to share knowledge that could eventually result in the creation of specific inhibitors to enable chemotherapy and other cancer therapies to work better against the disease. Goun emphasised that seeing this strategy through the lens of individualised medicine is the key to its success.

"Not all cancers are the same in every person, especially from the standpoint of metabolic signatures," Goun said. "Often times cancers can even change their metabolism before or after chemotherapy." (ANI)

 
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