Catalytic therapy of cancer by ascorbic acid involves redox cycling of exogenous/endogenous copper ions and generation of reactive oxygen species

S M Hadi, M F Ullah, U Shamim, S H Bhatt, A S Azmi
Chemotherapy 2010, 56 (4): 280-4
Catalytic therapy is a cancer treatment modality based on the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) through administration of ascorbate/medicinal herbal extracts and copper. It is known that antioxidants such as ascorbate also exhibit prooxidant activity in the presence of transition metals such as copper. Based on our work and that in the literature, in this review we propose a mechanism for the cytotoxic action of ascorbate against cancer cells. It involves redox cycling of exogenous/endogenous copper ions and the consequent generation of ROS leading to oxidative DNA breakage. Using human peripheral lymphocytes and the Comet assay, we have shown that ascorbic acid is able to cause oxidative breakage in cellular DNA. Such DNA degradation is inhibited by neocuproine (a Cu(I) sequestering agent) and scavengers of ROS indicating that the cellular DNA breakage involves the generation of Cu(I) and formation of ROS. Similar results are also obtained with plant polyphenol antioxidants that are important constituents of medicinal herbal extracts. Copper is an essential component of chromatin and can take part in redox reactions. It is well established that tissue, cellular and serum copper levels are considerably elevated in various malignancies. Therefore, cancer cells may be more subject to electron transfer between copper ions and ascorbate/plant polyphenols to generate ROS. In this review we cite evidence to indicate that in catalytic therapy cytotoxic action against cancer cells involves redox cycling of exogenous/endogenous copper ions.

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