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Histol Histopathol. 1997 Apr;12(2):525-35.

Antioxidant enzyme levels in cancer.

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Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Service, William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, Madison, WI 53705, USA.


Normal cells are protected by antioxidant enzymes from the toxic effects of high concentrations of reactive oxygen species generated during cellular metabolism. Even though cancer cells generate reactive oxygen species, it has been demonstrated biochemically that antioxidant enzyme levels are low in most animal and human cancers. However, a few cancer types have been found to have elevated levels of antioxidant enzymes, particularly manganese superoxide dismutase. Morphologic studies of animal and human cancer have confirmed that although the majority of tumor cell types from several organ systems have low antioxidant enzymes, adenocarcinomas may have elevated manganese superoxide dismutase and catalase levels. However, all cancers examined to date have some imbalance in antioxidant enzyme levels compared with the cell of origin. Antioxidant enzyme importance in cancer genesis has been difficult to evaluate in early cancerous lesions using biochemical techniques because such lesions are small and therefore below the level of detection. Using immunohistochemical techniques, early lesions of human and animal cancers were demonstrated to have low antioxidant enzymes, thus suggesting a role for these enzymes both in the genesis of cancer and the malignant phenotype. All but one human cancer cell type (the granular cell variant of human renal adenocarcinoma) examined showed both low catalase and glutathione peroxidase levels, suggesting that most cancer cell types cannot detoxify hydrogen peroxide. Our results to date are used to propose new cancer therapies based on modulation of cellular redox state.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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