Reactive oxygen species in redox cancer therapy

Cancer Lett. 2015 Oct 10;367(1):18-25. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2015.07.008. Epub 2015 Jul 14.


The role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in cancer cells has been intensively studied for the past two decades. Cancer cells mostly have higher basal ROS levels than their normal counterparts. The induction of ROS has been shown to be associated with cancer development, metastasis, progression, and survival. Various therapeutic approaches targeting intracellular ROS levels have yielded mixed results. As widely accepted dietary supplements, antioxidants demonstrate both ROS scavenging ability and anti-cancer characteristics. However, antioxidants may not always be safe to use since excessive intake of antioxidants could lead to serious health concerns. In this review, we have evaluated the production and scavenging systems of ROS in cells, as well as the beneficial and harmful roles of ROS in cancer cells. We also examine the effect of antioxidants in cancer treatment, the effect of combined treatment of antioxidants with traditional cancer therapies, and the side effects of excessive antioxidant intake.

Keywords: Antioxidant; Cancer therapy; Oxidative stress; Redox; Tumor.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / adverse effects
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species