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Glutathione, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and Cancer

By Tracey Roizman, D.C.

Glutathione and alpha lipoic acid are antioxidant molecules that destroy toxins in the body and prevent cell damage. Alpha lipoic acid is present in every cell, where it assists in energy production. Glutathione is an important detoxifying compound used by the liver. Some research has shown beneficial effects of glutathione and alpha lipoic acid for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Consult your doctor before using glutathione and alpha lipoic acid to treat cancer.

Glutathione and Cancer Treatment

Glutathione regulates some mechanisms of cancer, such as production of DNA, cell growth and reproduction and cell death, according to a study published in the 2011 issue of the journal "Cancers." Sensitivity to drugs and radiation used to treat cancer and the body's inflammatory response are also influenced by glutathione. Glutathione depletion is associated with increased levels of apoptosis -- programmed cell death -- and it also oversees other ways cancer cells die. The researchers noted the potential for selectively inducing glutathione depletion as a means of cancer treatment.

Glutathione Depletion

Some cancer drugs deplete glutathione and other antioxidants in the kidneys, an adverse side effect that can be reduced through vitamin supplementation, according to a study published in the January 2007 issue of the journal "Clinical Chimica Acta." In the study on laboratory animals, doses of 250 mg and 500 mg per kilogram of body weight of vitamin C and vitamin E reduced oxidative stress and prevented damage to the kidneys from the drug cisplatin. The 500 mg doses of the vitamins restored levels of antioxidant enzymes, including superoxide dismutase, glutathione and catalase. Both dosage levels increased glutathione levels and protected the kidneys from lipid oxidation.

Alpha Lipoic Acid and Cancer Metastasis

Alpha lipoic acid inhibits breast cancer metastasis, according to a study published in the June 2010 issue of the journal "Nutrition Research." The antioxidant is known to have a strong influence on cell growth and reproduction as well as programmed cell death in cancer cells. The study found that alpha lipoic acid also inhibits an enzyme known as matrix metalloproteinase, which breaks down the cell structure, allowing cancer cells to invade healthy tissue -- a process known as metastasis. In the tissue culture study of breast cancer cell lines, alpha lipoic acid inhibited migration of cancer cells, and thereby prevented metastasis.

Alpha Lipoic Acid and Radiation

A study published in the August 2010 issue of the journal "Cancer Biotherapy and Radiopharmaceuticals" found that alpha lipoic acid protects against damaging effects of radiation. The study on laboratory animals evaluated a supplement of alpha lipoic acid called Poly-MVA, and found that radiation damage in bone marrow and spleen cells was reduced with the use of the alpha lipoic acid supplement. The researchers conclude that Poly-MVA shows potential as an effective agent for the prevention of damage, such as cancer, from radiation exposure.

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