Glutathione and thioredoxin antioxidant pathways synergize to drive cancer initiation and progression

Cancer Cell. 2015 Feb 9;27(2):211-22. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2014.11.019. Epub 2015 Jan 22.


Controversy over the role of antioxidants in cancer has persisted for decades. Here, we demonstrate that synthesis of the antioxidant glutathione (GSH), driven by GCLM, is required for cancer initiation. Genetic loss of Gclm prevents a tumor's ability to drive malignant transformation. Intriguingly, these findings can be replicated using an inhibitor of GSH synthesis, but only if delivered prior to cancer onset, suggesting that at later stages of tumor progression GSH becomes dispensable potentially due to compensation from alternative antioxidant pathways. Remarkably, combined inhibition of GSH and thioredoxin antioxidant pathways leads to a synergistic cancer cell death in vitro and in vivo, demonstrating the importance of these two antioxidants to tumor progression and as potential targets for therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Female
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase / genetics*
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase / metabolism
  • Glutathione / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / drug therapy
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / genetics*
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Thioredoxins / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Thioredoxins
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase
  • Glutathione