DNC News


Selenium, Ovarian Cancer and Chemotherapy:

August 16, 2004


In selecting supplements in the treatment of cancer there are certain general characteristics to look for. First and foremost, are the intended doses safe to use? If so, then there are general categories to consider? Where and when will they be most useful? Will the increase the effect of chemotherapy? Will they decrease the side effects? Will it prevent drug resistance? Do we understand the mechanism? Will it interfere with other treatments?


An interesting example is selenium. A number of past newsletters have been devoted to the epidemiological, laboratory and clinical research on selenium. This discussion was prompted by a May, 2004 publication that looked at the role selenium could play in treating ovarian cancer with the drug cisplatin. “Selenium administration for 3 months resulted in the significant increase of white blood cells After 2 and 3 months of Se administration, a significant decrease of hair loss, flatulence, abdominal pain, weakness, malaise, loss of was stated.” [1]


Medical doctors are quick to suggest that anything that reduces the toxic side effects of chemotherapy is probably interfering with its toxic effects, including its toxic effects on cancer cells. Their argument goes on to suggest that if chemo is less toxic, it won't do as much good. So although quality of life during treatment may be improved, length of life might be shortened.


It appears that one of the mechanisms by which selenium works is to increase glutathione peroxidase levels. A dose of 200 mcg/day seems to be adequate to do this. [2] Glutathione is particularly effective at preventing damage from Cisplatin. In fact Selenium has been shown to reduce the bone marrow suppression and nephrotoxicity in women being treated for ovarian cancer with cisplatin. [3] In ovarian cancer, selenium levels appear to be a predictor of disease progression. The higher the patient's selenium levels, the longer they tend to stay in remission; those patients with low selenium were more likely to have the disease progress. [4]


In ovarian cancer there is a tendency for good initial response to chemotherapy and even temporary remission, but in time the cancer cells develop resistance to the drugs. Adding selenium to the protocol appears to protect the patient from developing drug resistance. The end result is that it appears to enhance the toxicity of the chemotherapy on the cancer cells. [5]


This would appear to be the bottom line; even though selenium decreases the toxic side effects of certain chemotherapy drugs in the treatment of ovarian cancer, because it prevents drug resistance in increases the therapeutic effect on cancer cells.



There is one concern. In the last year or so we have been using high doses of vitamin K-3 in combination with high doses of vitamin C to stimulate a process of cancer cell destruction called autoschizis. This process is stopped by glutathione peroxidase. As a result we are often forced to make the decision, either K-3 or selenium. At this point there is insufficient data to tell us that we can use both together effectively.

  [Link to Abstracts Referenced in this article]

[1] Gynecol Oncol. 2004 May;93(2):320-7.   

Selenium as an element in the treatment of ovarian cancer in women receiving chemotherapy.

Sieja K, Talerczyk M.

[2] Pharmazie. 1998 Jul;53(7):473-6.   

Selenium (Se) deficiency in women with ovarian cancer undergoing chemotherapy and the influence of supplementation with this micro-element on biochemical parameters.

Sieja K.

[3] Biol Trace Elem Res. 1997 Mar;56(3):331-41.   

The protective role of selenium on the toxicity of cisplatin-contained chemotherapy regimen in cancer patients.

Hu YJ, Chen Y, Zhang YQ, Zhou MZ, Song XM, Zhang BZ, Luo L, Xu PM, Zhao YN, Zhao YB, Cheng G.

[4] Carcinogenesis. 1984 Jun;5(6):731-4.   

Serum selenium in patients with ovarian cancer during and after therapy.

Sundstrom H, Yrjanheikki E, Kauppila A.

[5] Curr Pharm Des. 2001 Nov;7(16):1595-614.

A prevention strategy for circumventing drug resistance in cancer chemotherapy.

Frenkel GD, Caffrey PB.

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