The use of antioxidant therapies during chemotherapy

Gynecol Oncol. 2003 Mar;88(3):434-9. doi: 10.1016/s0090-8258(02)00067-7.


Objective: At the present time, many cancer patients combine some form of complementary and alternative medicine therapies with their conventional therapies. The most common choice of these therapies is the use of antioxidants.

Results: A review of four common antioxidants is undertaken, which includes vitamin E (mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols), beta-carotene (natural mixed carotenoids), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and vitamin A (retinoic acid). Antioxidants act as electron acceptors as well as therapeutic biologic response modifiers. Despite the fact that chemotherapy-induced formation of free radicals is well-demonstrated, chemotherapy-induced cytotoxicity in general does not seem to depend on formation of reactive oxygen species.

Conclusions: Currently, evidence is growing that antioxidants may provide some benefit when combined with certain types of chemotherapy. Because of the potential for positive benefits, a randomized controlled trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of adding antioxidants to chemotherapy in newly diagnosed ovarian cancer is underway at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants