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Free Radicals and Antioxidants: Their Role in Cancer with Kirsten Laverdure, PhD


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is the number one cause of death worldwide. Traditional treatments of cancer use chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation. The majority of these treatments rely on the production of free radical species that damage the cell and genetic material pushing the cell to commit suicide. However, new data is emerging to suggest that, in cancer cells, increases in free radical production can actually help promote tumor progression and lead to drug resistance.

Free radicals, or Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), are scavenger molecules that steal electrons from nearby substances. This process can lead to DNA mutations and alterations of both lipids and proteins within the cell. Low levels of ROS are required for the cell to live and proliferate; however high levels of ROS initiate a cell death response. Cancer cells, which are known to have numerous mutations, may have developed a way to use ROS molecules to promote their survival, and actually increase the proliferation process, leading to a worse prognosis. Given that the majority of current cancer treatments rely on the production of ROS molecules, we may need to re-think our view on both free radicals and antioxidants in the treatment of cancer.

In this webinar we will examine the role of free radicals and antioxidants as they pertain to cancer. We will discuss the biological role that these molecules play in proliferation and survival. We will also explore the effect that traditional treatments have on ROS levels and what that may mean for patients. Finally, we will explore ways that nutrition can help counteract some of these deleterious effects produced by ROS.

Kirsten Laverdure earned her Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Virginia, where she worked on breast cancer and how to make cancer cells more susceptible to standard agents using the body’s own pathways. Her area of expertise is in cancer signal transduction and determining why cancer cells become resistant to treatment. Currently she is a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA department of neurology working on brain cancer. Her research is focused on the role that free radicals play in promoting tumor growth, particularly in response to traditional chemotherapy and radiation. She is also focused on the role that antioxidants play in preventing cancer cell death and the metabolic changes that a cancer cell undergoes to promote cell growth. She has lectured extensively and presented her findings in this area at national and international symposia and has authored peer-reviewed articles. She has taught courses in human nutrition and performance, nutritionally based diseases and the global food crisis. Currently she is on the Hawthorn University faculty in the Doctoral program.

Click Here for a PDF copy of the slide presentation used in this webinar.