The mineral selenium, which naturally occurs in foods like broccoli and garlic, appears to slow down a process that allows cancers such as melanoma, prostate cancer, and leukemia to spread.
These types of cancer contain mechanisms that block the body’s ability to recognize and destroy them by causing the immune system to over-activate.
“You can say that the stimulating molecules over-activate the immune system and cause it to collapse, and we are, of course, interested in blocking this mechanism. We have now shown that certain selenium compounds . . . effectively block the special immunostimulatory molecule that plays a serious role for aggressive cancers,” says Søren Skov, a professor in the veterinary disease biology department at the University of Copenhagen.
Certain cancer cells overexpress immunostimulatory molecules in liquid form. Such over-stimulation has a negative impact on the immune system.
In this study, the researchers focused on the so-called NGK2D ligands. There are eight variants, of which one in particular has caught the researchers’ attention, because it assumes liquid form.
It is precisely the molecular dissolution that causes serious problems once the cancer is raging. The entire bloodstream is, so to speak, infected, and the molecule is therefore used as a marker of serious illness.
“Molecules are found both on the surface of the cancer cells and dissolved in the blood of the affected person. We are now able to show that selenium compounds appear to have a very beneficial effect when it comes to neutralizing the special variant of the NGK2D ligand—both in soluble form and when the molecule is placed on the cell surface,” says Skov.
Skov says the discovery is another step toward developing better cancer drugs. “If we can find ways to slow down the over-stimulation, we are on the right track.”
The new findings have just been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Source: University of Copenhagen