Sunday March 03, 2024

Hope rises as researchers find selenium could fight ovarian cancer

Researchers show selenium nanoparticles killed ovarian cancer cell models generated in 3D to mimic natural tumour environment very efficiently

By Web Desk
March 11, 2023
A woman on a hospital bed using her cellphone. — Pexels
A woman on a hospital bed using her cellphone. — Pexels

Although harmful in large doses, selenium is a micronutrient that is vital to human health. Yet, recent biological studies have demonstrated that selenium, when given in large levels to those with ovarian cancer, has anti-cancer capabilities.

A multinational research team, led by Professors Steve Conlan of Swansea University and Laurent Charlet of Université Grenoble Alpes, investigated the possibility of using selenium nanoparticles as a viable cancer treatment to overcome issues with its intrinsic toxicity. They just released their findings in the journal Redox Biology.

SeNP accumulation in SKOV-3 and OVCAR-3 spheroids.—
SeNP accumulation in SKOV-3 and OVCAR-3 spheroids.—

The researchers showed that the selenium nanoparticles killed ovarian cancer cell models generated in 3D to mimic the natural tumour environment very efficiently.

Scientists later found a brand-new molecular mechanism that explains how selenium is probably responsible for this anti-cancer action. They discovered that selenium alters the function of enzymes known as histone methylatransferases. These enzymes control epigenetic processes. In contrast to genetic mutations, which cannot be reversed, epigenetic modifications alter how your body interprets DNA sequences.

Dr Noor Al Kafri, a CARA fellow in Professor Conlan's lab, Dr Benoit Toubans, and others from the University of Stuttgart and the Grenoble Synchrotron Facility worked on this project as part of a combined PhD that was funded by the Swansea-Grenoble Strategic Partnership.

"This is one of those quite rare moments when you realize the team has made a novel biological discovery," said Professor Conlan, who heads the Reproductive Biology and Gynecological Oncology group at Swansea University Medical School, describing the project as a tremendous scientific research effort.

The research team says it is now critical to take into account both the traditional antioxidant and unique histone methylation effects of selenium and its development as a cancer treatment. They are hopeful that this discovery will bring fresh insights into the function of selenium nanoparticles.

How to get tested for ovarian cancer?

There are several tests that can be used to detect ovarian cancer or to evaluate symptoms that may be indicative of the illness. These tests may include:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Transvaginal
  • CA-125 blood test
  • CT scan or MRI

Pelvic exam: A doctor might feel any abnormalities in the ovaries, uterus, or cervix during a pelvic exam.

Transvaginal ultrasound: A type of ultrasound that uses a small wand inserted into the vagina to create images of the ovaries and other reproductive organs.

CA-125 blood test: This test measures the level of a protein called CA-125 in the blood. Elevated levels of this protein can indicate ovarian cancer.

CT scan or MRI: These imaging tests can create detailed pictures of the abdomen and pelvis, allowing doctors to check for any abnormalities in the ovaries.

Can ovarian cancer be cured?

The chances of curing ovarian cancer depend on a variety of factors, such as the stage at which it is diagnosed, the extent of cancer, and the patient's overall health. In some cases, ovarian cancer can be cured if it is diagnosed at an early stage and treated aggressively.

The standard treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible, followed by chemotherapy to destroy any remaining tumour cells. In some cases, radiation therapy may also be used. The specific treatment plan will depend on the individual patient's case.