Popular vitamin supplement causes cancer risk and brain metastases

Popular vitamin supplement causes cancer risk and brain metastases

Popular vitamin supplement causes cancer risk and brain metastases

Popular vitamin supplement causes cancer risk and brain metastases

New research reveals that the popular dietary supplement nicotinamide riboside may increase the risk of serious diseases, including developing cancer.

Researchers at the University of Missouri made this discovery while using bioluminescent imaging technology to study how nicotinamide riboside supplements work in the body.

Commercial dietary supplements such as nicotinamide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B3, have been linked to benefits related to cardiovascular, metabolic and neurological health in previous studies. However, new research from the University of Missouri (MU) has shown that NR may actually increase the risk of serious diseases, including developing cancer.

Supplements containing nicotinamide riboside are often touted as NAD+ boosters that are claimed to have increased energy, antiaging/longevity/healthy aging, improved metabolism and cellular energy repair, increased vitality, and improved heart health.

Scientists have found that high levels of NR can not only increase a person’s risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer, but can also cause the cancer to metastasize, or spread, to the brain. The international team of researchers was led by Elena Goun, associate professor of chemistry at MU and corresponding author of the study. She said that when cancer reaches the brain, the results are fatal because there are currently no viable treatment options.

“Some people take them [vitamins and supplements] because they automatically assume that vitamins and supplements have only positive health benefits, but very little is known about how they actually work,” said Goun. “Because of this lack of knowledge, we were inspired to study basic questions about how vitamins and dietary supplements work in the body.”

After the death of her 59-year-old father just three months after she was diagnosed with colon cancer, Goun was motivated by her father’s death to pursue a better scientific understanding of cancer metabolism, or the energy by which cancer spreads in the body. Since NR is a known supplement that helps increase cellular energy levels, and cancer cells feed on that energy through their increased metabolism, Goun wanted to investigate the role of NR in cancer development and spread.

Elena Goun

Elena Goun. Credit: University of Missouri

“Our work is particularly important given the wide commercial availability and large number of ongoing human clinical trials in which NR is used to alleviate the side effects of cancer therapy in patients,” said Goun.

The researchers used this technology to compare and examine how much NR is present in cancer cells, T cells and healthy tissues.

“Although NR is already widely used in humans and is being investigated in so many ongoing clinical trials for additional applications, much of how NR works is a black box — it’s not understood,” Goun said. “This inspired us to come up with this new imaging technique based on ultrasensitive bioluminescence imaging that allows real-time quantification of NR levels in a non-invasive manner. The presence of NR is indicated by light, and the stronger the light, the more NR is present.”

Goun said the study’s findings underscore the importance of carefully researching the potential side effects of supplements like NR before using them in people who may have different types of health problems. In the future, Goun would like to provide information that could potentially lead to the development of certain inhibitors that would help make anti-cancer therapies like chemotherapy more effective in treating cancer. The key to this approach, Goun said, is to look at it from the perspective of personalized medicine.

“Not all cancers are the same in every person, especially from a metabolic signature standpoint,” Goun said. “Cancers can often change their metabolism before or after chemotherapy.”

Reference: “Bioluminescent probe for in vivo non-invasive monitoring of nicotinamide riboside uptake reveals a link between metastasis and NAD+ metabolism” Tamara Maric, Arkadiy Bazhin, Pavlo Khodakivskyi, Georgy Mikhaylov, Ekaterina Solodnikova, Aleksey Yevtodiyenko, Greta Maria Paola Giordano Attianese, George Coukos, Melita Irving, Magali Joffraud, Carles Cantó and Elena Goun, 29 October 2022, Biosensors and bioelectronics.
DOI: 10.1016/j.bios.2022.114826

Other authors include Arkady Bazin, Pavle Khodakivski, Ekaterina Solodnikova, and Aleksei Yevtodienko at MU; Tamara Marić at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology; Greta Maria Paola Giordano Attianese, George Coukos and Melita Irving at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Switzerland; and Magali Joffraud and Carles Cantó at the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences in Switzerland. Bazhin, Khodakivskyi, Mikhaylov, Solodnikova, Yevtodiyenko and Goun are also affiliated with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Mikhaylov, Yevtodiyenko and Goun are also associated with SwissLumix SARL in Switzerland.

Funding was provided by grants from the European Research Council (ERC-2019-COG, 866338) and the Swiss National Foundation (51NF40_185898), as well as support from NCCR Chemical Biology.


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