The Antioxidant Paradox: What Are Antioxidants and How Should They Be Used in a Therapeutic Context for Cancer

Future Med Chem. 2014;6(12):1413-22. doi: 10.4155/fmc.14.86.


So-called antioxidants have yet to make a clinical impact on the treatment of human cancer. The reasons for this failure are several. First, many agents that are called antioxidants are truly antioxidants at a given dose, but this dose may not have been given in clinical trials. Second, many agents are not antioxidants at all. Third, not all tumors use reactive oxygen as a signaling mechanism. Finally, reactive oxygen inhibition is often insufficient to kill or regress a tumor cell by itself, but requires sequential introduction of a therapeutic agent for maximal effect. We hope to provide a framework for the logical use of these agents in cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antioxidants