Cancer chemoprevention: A radical perspective

Numsen Hail, Marcela Cortes, Edgar N. Drake, Julian E. Spallholz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Cancer chemopreventive agents block the transformation of normal cells and/or suppress the promotion of premalignant cells to malignant cells. Certain agents may achieve these objectives by modulating xenobiotic biotransformation, protecting cellular elements from oxidative damage, or promoting a more differentiated phenotype in target cells. Conversely, various cancer chemopreventive agents can encourage apoptosis in premalignant and malignant cells in vivo and/or in vitro, which is conceivably another anticancer mechanism. Furthermore, it is evident that many of these apoptogenic agents function as prooxidants in vitro. The constitutive intracellular redox environment dictates a cell's response to an agent that alters this environment. Thus, it is highly probable that normal cells, through adaption, could acquire resistance to transformation via exposure to a chemopreventive agent that promotes oxidative stress or disrupts the normal redox tone of these cells. In contrast, transformed cells, which typically endure an oxidizing intracellular environment, would ultimately succumb to apoptosis due to an uncontrollable production of reactive oxygen species caused by the same agent. Here, we provide evidence to support the hypothesis that reactive oxygen species and cellular redox tone are exploitable targets in cancer chemoprevention via the stimulation of cytoprotection in normal cells and/or the induction of apoptosis in transformed cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-110
Number of pages14
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 15 2008


  • Apoptosis
  • Cancer chemoprevention
  • Mitochondria
  • Nrf2
  • Oxidative stress
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Review


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