University Of Georgia Logo Breast cancer patients recommended to consume a common vitamin are under an alarming threat, or at least the following piece of information suggests so. A groundbreaking study triggered by the University of Georgia suggests that vitamin therapy can be extremely harmful for patients diagnosed with breast cancer. It was mentioned that supplementation of thiamine therapy may promote disease progression.

Thiamine or vitamin B1, considered important for the functioning of the heart, muscles and nervous system apparently helps the body’s cells convert carbohydrates, including glucose, into energy. Breast cancer patients suffering from anemia due to chemotherapy treatment may often be subjected to supplemental thiamine therapy. It is predicted that thiamine helps in maintaining red blood cell function so the body can get rid of anemia. However, thiamine supplementation in advanced breast cancer patients can supposedly pave way for disease progression of solid tumors.

Usually tumor cells are believed to employ glucose together with oxygen for producing energy so that the cell grows rapidly. The solid tumors witnessed in breast cancer can possibly cause an underdeveloped and dysfunctional vascular network throughout the tumor. This process can presumably lead to hypoxia, wherein cancer cells decrease oxygen supply as they are not in close proximity to blood vessels. Such hypoxic regions within the tumor can seemingly boost the aggressiveness of cancer, raise its potential to metastasize or trigger disease relapse.

Jason Zastre, an assistant professor in the UGA College of Pharmacy, added, “In our lab we observed that the metabolic shift associated with hypoxic cells resulted in the enhanced expression and function of thiamine transporters, which allowed for a greater increase in thiamine uptake than is seen in non-hypoxic breast cancer cells. Thiamine may then promote growth in these hypoxic cancer cells in much the same way as in healthy tissue. Studying the involvement of enzyme co-factors, such as vitamin B1, in hypoxic cancer cell metabolism is not normally a focus of cancer research, so our work has been novel and encouraging.”

Researchers presume that hypoxic stress can also result in a metabolic shift within the cells that needs extra nutrients and growth factors like thiamine. Additional nutrients may enable the cells to adapt and survive in the low oxygen environment. At the time of the investigation, experts examined the cause of the metabolic shift in a hypoxic environment and the nutrients involved in the process. It appeared that thiamine enters cells and its transporters increase within the hypoxic cells. The enhanced production of thiamine transporters can probably support the survival of hypoxic cancer cells. Further investigations can be initiated to determine the role of increased thiamine transport in hypoxic breast cancer cells.

The study was published in the December issue of Cancer Biology and Therapy.