Selenium compounds as therapeutic agents in cancer.

Biochimica et biophysica acta

PubMedID: 25459512

Fernandes AP, Gandin V. Selenium compounds as therapeutic agents in cancer. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014;.
With cancer cells encompassing consistently higher production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and with an induced antioxidant defense to counteract the increased basal ROS production, tumors have a limited reserve capacity resulting in an increased vulnerability of some cancer cells to ROS. Based on this, oxidative stress has been recognized as a tumor-specific target for the rational design of new anticancer agents. Among redox modulating compounds, selenium compounds have gained substantial attention due to their promising chemotherapeutic potential.

This review aims in summarizing and providing the recent developments of our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlie the potential anticancer effects of selenium compounds.

It is well established that selenium at higher doses readily can turn into a prooxidant and thereby exert its potential anticancer properties. However, the biological activity of selenium compounds and the mechanism behind these effects are highly dependent on its speciation and the specific metabolic pathways of cells and tissues. Conversely, the chemical properties and the main molecular mechanisms of the most relevant inorganic and organic selenium compounds as well as selenium-based nanoparticles must be taken into account and are discussed herein.

Elucidating and deepening our mechanistic knowledge of selenium compounds will help in designing and optimizing compounds with more specific antitumor properties for possible future application of selenium compounds in the treatment of cancer. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Redox regulation of differentiation and de-differentiation.