Selenium targets resistance biomarkers enhancing efficacy while reducing toxicity of anti-cancer drugs: preclinical and clinical development

Yousef Zakharia, Arup Bhattacharya and Youcef M. Rustum _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:10765-10783. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.24297

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Yousef Zakharia1, Arup Bhattacharya2 and Youcef M. Rustum1,2

1University of Iowa Division of Medical Oncology and Hematology, Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, Iowa City, IA, USA

2Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Buffalo, NY, USA

Correspondence to:

Youcef M. Rustum, email: [email protected]

Keywords: selenium; HIFS; translational medical research; transcription factors; microRNAs

Received: September 04, 2017     Accepted: January 13, 2018     Published: January 23, 2018


Selenium (Se)-containing molecules exert antioxidant properties and modulate targets associated with tumor growth, metastasis, angiogenesis, and drug resistance. Prevention clinical trials with low-dose supplementation of different types of Se molecules have yielded conflicting results. Utilizing several xenograft models, we earlier reported that the enhanced antitumor activity of various chemotherapeutic agents by selenomethione and Se-methylselenocysteine in several human tumor xenografts is highly dose- and schedule-dependent. Further, Se pretreament offered selective protection of normal tissues from drug-induced toxicity, thereby allowing higher dosing than maximum tolerated doses.

These enhanced therapeutic effects were associated with inhibition of hypoxia-inducible factor 1- and 2-alpha (HIF1α, HIF2α) protein, nuclear factor (erythyroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2) and pair-related homeobox-1 (Prx1) transcription factors, downregulation of oncogenic- and upregulation of tumor suppressor miRNAs. This review provides: 1) a brief update of clinical prevention trials with Se; 2) advances in the use of specific types, doses, and schedules of Se that selectively modulate antitumor activity and toxicity of anti-cancer drugs; 3) identification of targets selectively modulated by Se; 4) plasma and tumor tissue Se levels achieved after oral administration of Se in xenograft models and cancer patients; 5) development of a phase 1 clinical trial with escalating doses of orally administered selenomethionine in sequential combination with axitinib to patients with advanced clear cell renal cell carcinoma; and 6) clinical prospects for future therapeutic use of Se in combination with anticancer drugs.

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