Cold remedy reduces cancer aggressiveness by up to 80%

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An over-the-counter High Street supplement reduces breast cancer aggressiveness by up to 80 per cent, new research reveals.

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), which is sold as a supplement in Holland & Barrett in the UK and is approved as a cold and flu remedy in the US, significantly lowers levels of the breast cancer aggressiveness marker MCT4, a study found.

In the US, NAC, which is considered a miracle supplement, is available from Walgreens, Walmart and CVS and is priced from as little as $4.79 for a bottle of 30 600mg capsules.

Study author Professor Michael Lisanti from the University of Salford, UK, said: ‘High levels of MCT4 are extremely worrying as they are linked to aggressive cancer behavior and poor overall survival, so this is [a] very encouraging result.’

‘To be able to inhibit MCT4 protein expression, in a non-toxic way, is huge step forward.’ 

It is unclear how the researchers came to investigate NAC, a protein, in breast cancer, however, it contains antioxidants that cause tumours to release nutrients they need to thrive, preventing cancer growth.

As the protein’s acceptable side effects, such as nausea, have already been demonstrated in colds and flu, the researchers hope NAC may offer a low-toxicity alternative treatment option for breast cancer patients. 

NAC, which is also used in carbon monoxide poisoning and to lower cholesterol levels, is being investigated in everything from depression and schizophrenia to cannabis addiction and even hangovers.  

Breast cancer affects around one in eight women in the US and UK. More than 50,000 cases are diagnosed each year in Britain, while over 310,000 new women suffer annually in the US. 

An over-the-counter cold remedy reduces breast cancer aggressiveness by up to 80 per cent

An over-the-counter cold remedy reduces breast cancer aggressiveness by up to 80 per cent

An over-the-counter cold remedy reduces breast cancer aggressiveness by up to 80 per cent

WHAT IS N-ACETYLCYSTEINE? 

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is a protein that contains the amino acid L-cysteine.

It also contains antioxidants that strengthen the immune system and prevent cell damage. 

Side effects many include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. 

In the UK, the supplement is available at Holland & Barrett, while 30 600mg capsules can be purchased in the US from Walgreens, Walmart and CVS for as little as $4.79.

The US also has a generic version of NAC available as a cold and flu remedy to loosen the build up of mucus.   

How the research was carried out 

The researchers analysed 12 women with newly-diagnosed early-stage breast cancer.

The study’s participants were treated with NAC before undergoing surgery to remove their tumours.

They received a once-weekly intravenous dose and two oral doses on the other days for an average of 19 days.

Biopsies of the participants’ tumours were taken after surgery and analysed for markers of cancer aggressiveness.

Cancer aggressiveness reduced by up to 80% 

Results reveal MCT4 was reduced by 80 per cent, while another marker of cancer aggressiveness, known as Ki67, decreased by 25 per cent.

The researchers believe their findings offer a potential inexpensive cancer treatment with low toxicity as its safety has already been demonstrated in colds.

Professor Lisanti said: ‘High levels of ‘MCT4 are extremely worrying as they are linked to aggressive cancer behavior and poor overall survival, so this is [a] very encouraging result.’

‘To be able to inhibit MCT4 protein expression, in a non-toxic way, is huge step forward.’ 

The findings were published in the journal Seminars in Oncology. 

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) significantly lowers levels of the breast cancer marker MCT4

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) significantly lowers levels of the breast cancer marker MCT4

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) significantly lowers levels of the breast cancer marker MCT4

Cold remedy ‘starves’ cancer of nutrients 

NAC has antioxidant properties, which causes cancer cells to release nutrients they need to thrive.

This may ‘starve’ tumours, preventing their growth. 

Professor Lisanti said: ‘Our idea was to repurpose an inexpensive FDA-approved drug, to examine if its antioxidant properties could target the feeding behavior of cancer cells.’

WHAT ELSE IS N-ACETYLCYSTEINE USED FOR?

Aside from being approved in the US to loosen mucus in colds and flu, N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), which is considered a miracle supplement, has many other uses.

By binding to poisonous substances in the liver, NAC can be given intravenously to patients suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning or liver failure, as well as to detoxify heavy metals. 

It can also be given as a preventative treatment in patients receiving aggressive drugs or X-rays. 

NAC reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and is therefore frequently recommended for patients at risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

By loosening mucus, NAC can also be inhaled in patients with cystic fibrosis, pneumonia or bronchitis.

Trials are underway investigating the supplement in everything from depression and schizophrenia to cannabis addiction, autism and even hangovers. 

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