Nrf2 and Cancer

The proven science behind Nrf2's cancer fighting benefits

How can Nrf2 Help Fight Against Cancer?

  • Protects cells against cellular stress/free radical damage
  • Safeguards cells from effects of inflammatory stress
  • Enhance production/activity of the body's potent antioxidant enzymes
  • Restrict/modulate underlying mechanisms involved in carcinogenesis (formation of cancer cells)
  • Positively influences genes involved in formation of cancer cells
  • Shows ability to slow progression of and "kill" cancer cells

Nrf2 Boasts Impressive Anti-Cancer Effects

More than one thousand scientific publications describe the relationship between Nrf2 activation and various types of cancer. These studies span the entire range of scientific study design, from clinical supplementation trials in humans, to mechanistic studies in specific cell cultures, to gene activation studies, and even specialized studies of Nrf2 metabolism in different models of chronic diseases. Nrf2 is perhaps the most important cell defense and survival pathway – protecting cells and tissues from a variety of toxicants and carcinogens. Because Nrf2 activation increases dozens of cellular protective functions, several pharmaceutical activators of Nrf2 are under study in clinical trials. For instance, researchers from the National Cancer Institute stated that in their review of several studies, the "finding... implicate Nrf2 as a promising molecular target for cancer prevention" (Cancer Prevention Research, 2008). Other researchers from China found that "an increasing body of evidence supports the premise that the Nrf2/ARE pathway plays a critical role in the protective mechanism of cells" (Food Science and Human Wellness, 2013). And recently, results from a Rutgers University-based study found that the ". . . defense enzymes mediated by Nrf2-antioxidative stress and anti-inflammatory signaling pathways can contribute to cellular protection against . . . carcinogens" (Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 2013). While more research is still needed, these studies and others comprise a growing body of evidence demonstrating that Nrf2 is indeed a potentially powerful weapon against cancer.

The Science Behind Nrf2's Cancer-Protective Benefits Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer

Researchers from the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology & Neuroscience at Louisiana State University found that "Product 5x" could suppress both the development and spread of skin cancer. Elevated levels of protective antioxidant enzymes led to a 57% reduction in number of skin tumors in a mouse model skin of cancer (PLoS One. 2009;4(4):e5284). In a follow-up study using the same model, the same research group found that "Product 5x" significantly reduced the development of skin cancer following exposure to carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals (PLoS One. 2010 Jul 30;5(7):e11902) – suggesting that the multiple modes of action of "Product 5x"could potentially be used as a chemopreventive agent due to their ability to modulate underlying mechanisms involved in carcinogenesis (Enzyme Res. 2011;2011:409295).

Colon Cancer

Due to the multiple modes of action of "Product 5x," researchers from the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver used an advanced assay method to screen DNA from blood vessels to investigate its effects on activation of Nrf2 and dozens of cellular protection genes (Mol Aspects Med. 2011 Aug;32(4-6):234-46). "Product 5x" significantly modulated 25 of 28 (89%) colon carcinoma-specific gene targets, leading the authors to conclude that "Nrf2 activators may well spawn a new class of drugs to target the so-called 'diseases of aging,' including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases."


Breast Cancer

"Product 5x" was shown to suppress the growth and spread of breast cancer by researchers at Louisiana State University (The FASEB Journal. 2012;26:1118.5). The study of isolated breast cancer cells compared the potential of both “Product 5x” and Tamoxifen (an existing drug used to treat breast cancer) to reduce the growth/spread of human breast cancer cells. Results showed that both "Product 5x" and Tamoxifen were effective in reducing breast cancer cell growth by many of the same biochemical signals.

Ovarian Cancer & Myeloma (Bone Marrow Cancer)

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine (Prasongsook, Biomedical Sciences Thesis, 2014) showed that "Product 5x" produced a range of significant anti-cancer effects against ovarian cancer and myeloma (bone marrow cancer). In a series of studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Product 5x" was shown to have anti-cancer effects in ovarian cancer cells and myeloma (bone marrow cancer) cells, while sparing normal healthy cells. "Product 5x" showed anti-tumor and anti-proliferative effects (reduced tumor formation and growth) across 8 different ovarian cancer cell lines, including both chemotherapy-sensitive and chemotherapy-resistant cells (Cisplatin/cisplatinum and Taxol/paclitaxel). "Product 5x" showed selective cytotoxicity (cell-killing) effects in ovarian cancer cells and myeloma cells – while sparing normal (non-cancerous) cells.


Other Considerations

When it comes to people undergoing active treatment for cancer (i.e. chemo or radiation therapy), it is typical for oncologists (cancer doctors) to want NO supplements in the mix. This is because every type of cancer, every regimen of treatment, and every patient is a unique collection of variables. As such, it’s prudent to remove the potential variable of any supplements and the potential for cancer cells to be “protected” by those supplements from the oxidizing effects of their chemo/radiation therapy.

Another reason for discontinuing all dietary supplements during cancer therapy is that chemotherapy and radiotherapy doses have been determined in groups of people who were not taking supplements, making it prudent for the patient to be in a similar condition to the clinical trial groups. Yet an additional reason for stopping supplementation during cancer therapy is that some chemotherapy agents require processing by liver enzymes, the levels of which might be changed by Nrf2 induction in the liver, the body’s primary detoxification organ.

In many situations, the cancer doctors will want patients to stop any supplements during active therapy, but then allow the supplements to be added back into the mix after the therapy is completed to support the Nrf2 induction benefits for immune system function, normal cellular defenses, etc. (but that is always a discussion for the patient and doctor to have and a decision for them to make together).