Research Topic

Recent Developments in the Prevention and Treatment of Cancers Using Organoselenium Compounds

About this Research Topic

Background: Selenium, a unique element within a wide variety of oxidation states, exhibits both antioxidant and pro-oxidant effects, and thereby modulating cell survival and proliferation. In biological systems, selenium exists in the form of a co-factor of various enzymes, or becomes incorporated in the amino acids as selenocysteine or selenomethionine to be a part of redox enzymes. Therefore, selenium is one of the key micronutrient required to maintain cellular redox state as well as to control cell proliferation and survival. Selenium- and selenium-based natural, semi-synthetic and synthetic products, have been explored to prevent and treat cancers. For example selenomethionine, a selenium containing amino acid, has been tested in vitro and in vivo for the prevention of prostate cancers. The Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial conducted in the 1990s reported that supplementing diets with selenized yeast, which is rich in selenomethionine, showed a significant reduction in prostate cancers. This indicated the ability of selenium to prevent carcinomas of prostate. Likewise, selenocysteine and selenomethylselenocysteine have also been experimented in vitro and in vivo for inhibiting the growth of several cancers. In light of these, organoselenium compounds have been considered as potential agents for not only preventing the transformation of normal cells into cancer cells, but also for treating the aggressive tumors.

Other studies have demonstrated enhanced potency of pharmacological agents when sulfur in their structures is replaced with selenium. One of the key mechanisms by which selenium-containing compounds reduces cell survival is by targeting the Akt phosphorylation followed by promoting cell cycle arrest through the upregulation of p53, p27 and p21 proteins. In addition, treatment of cancer cells with pharmacological agents containing selenium sensitizes cells to chemotherapeutic agents and radiation thereby promoting the efficacy and reducing the toxicity of anti-cancer treatments.

Although much has been studied about the mechanism(s) of action of selenium based anti-cancer agents, many concerns pertaining to their safety, efficacy and clinical utility still persist. More over to date, not much is known about the impact of selenium and selenium-based anti-cancer agents on gut microbial flora. Given the gut microbiome and the products generated by gut-microflora play critical roles in the management of cancers, it is important to study and test the potential impact of selenium on gut microbiome. Further, recent studies have indicated the potential of dietary selenium to impact the composition of host selenoproteins. However, it remains unknown whether selenium-containing anticancer agents do impact host selenoproteins and if so, what is the outcome of this impact on normal and cancer cells growth and survival. Addressing these unanswered questions further extends our understanding about selenium and its impact on normal and cancer cells thereby assisting in developing better chemopreventive and therapeutic agents.

Developments have also taken place in the area of delivering selenium-based anticancer agents to tumor cells. Nano-selenium and nanoselenium-based anticancer agents have been developed and preliminary studies conducted to test the safety and efficacy against various cancers. However many studies are still warranted to develop (a) strategies to improve the target specificity; (b) controlled, and on-demand release formulations; (c) safe and effective pharmaceutical formulations; and (d) a clinically viable and stable drug compositions.

Goal and Scope: In this Research Topic, we aim to publish research articles in the following areas: (a) synthesis and characterization of novel selenium based anti-cancer agents with strong in vitro and in vivo data; (b) mechanistic studies that helps in understanding the mode of action and cellular specificity; (c) preparation of nano-selenium based formulations to effectively and safely deliver the payloads in to cancer cells; (d) impact of selenium and selenium-based formulations on gut microbiota and subsequent effect on tumor cells growth


Keywords: Organoselenium Compounds, selenium, anti-cancer, prevention and treatment


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Background: Selenium, a unique element within a wide variety of oxidation states, exhibits both antioxidant and pro-oxidant effects, and thereby modulating cell survival and proliferation. In biological systems, selenium exists in the form of a co-factor of various enzymes, or becomes incorporated in the amino acids as selenocysteine or selenomethionine to be a part of redox enzymes. Therefore, selenium is one of the key micronutrient required to maintain cellular redox state as well as to control cell proliferation and survival. Selenium- and selenium-based natural, semi-synthetic and synthetic products, have been explored to prevent and treat cancers. For example selenomethionine, a selenium containing amino acid, has been tested in vitro and in vivo for the prevention of prostate cancers. The Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial conducted in the 1990s reported that supplementing diets with selenized yeast, which is rich in selenomethionine, showed a significant reduction in prostate cancers. This indicated the ability of selenium to prevent carcinomas of prostate. Likewise, selenocysteine and selenomethylselenocysteine have also been experimented in vitro and in vivo for inhibiting the growth of several cancers. In light of these, organoselenium compounds have been considered as potential agents for not only preventing the transformation of normal cells into cancer cells, but also for treating the aggressive tumors.

Other studies have demonstrated enhanced potency of pharmacological agents when sulfur in their structures is replaced with selenium. One of the key mechanisms by which selenium-containing compounds reduces cell survival is by targeting the Akt phosphorylation followed by promoting cell cycle arrest through the upregulation of p53, p27 and p21 proteins. In addition, treatment of cancer cells with pharmacological agents containing selenium sensitizes cells to chemotherapeutic agents and radiation thereby promoting the efficacy and reducing the toxicity of anti-cancer treatments.

Although much has been studied about the mechanism(s) of action of selenium based anti-cancer agents, many concerns pertaining to their safety, efficacy and clinical utility still persist. More over to date, not much is known about the impact of selenium and selenium-based anti-cancer agents on gut microbial flora. Given the gut microbiome and the products generated by gut-microflora play critical roles in the management of cancers, it is important to study and test the potential impact of selenium on gut microbiome. Further, recent studies have indicated the potential of dietary selenium to impact the composition of host selenoproteins. However, it remains unknown whether selenium-containing anticancer agents do impact host selenoproteins and if so, what is the outcome of this impact on normal and cancer cells growth and survival. Addressing these unanswered questions further extends our understanding about selenium and its impact on normal and cancer cells thereby assisting in developing better chemopreventive and therapeutic agents.

Developments have also taken place in the area of delivering selenium-based anticancer agents to tumor cells. Nano-selenium and nanoselenium-based anticancer agents have been developed and preliminary studies conducted to test the safety and efficacy against various cancers. However many studies are still warranted to develop (a) strategies to improve the target specificity; (b) controlled, and on-demand release formulations; (c) safe and effective pharmaceutical formulations; and (d) a clinically viable and stable drug compositions.

Goal and Scope: In this Research Topic, we aim to publish research articles in the following areas: (a) synthesis and characterization of novel selenium based anti-cancer agents with strong in vitro and in vivo data; (b) mechanistic studies that helps in understanding the mode of action and cellular specificity; (c) preparation of nano-selenium based formulations to effectively and safely deliver the payloads in to cancer cells; (d) impact of selenium and selenium-based formulations on gut microbiota and subsequent effect on tumor cells growth


Keywords: Organoselenium Compounds, selenium, anti-cancer, prevention and treatment


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

15 June 2020 Abstract
15 October 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 June 2020 Abstract
15 October 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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