Selenium is generally known as an antioxidant due to its presence in selenoproteins as selenocysteine, but it is also toxic. The toxic effects of selenium are, however, strictly concentration and chemical species dependent. One class of selenium compounds is a potent inhibitor of cell growth with remarkable tumor specificity. These redox active compounds are pro-oxidative and highly cytotoxic to tumor cells and are promising candidates to be used in chemotherapy against cancer. Herein we elaborate upon the major forms of dietary selenium compounds, their metabolic pathways, and their antioxidant and pro-oxidant potentials with emphasis on cytotoxic mechanisms. Relative cytotoxicity of inorganic selenite and organic selenocystine compounds to different cancer cells are presented as evidence to our perspective. Furthermore, new novel classes of selenium compounds specifically designed to target tumor cells are presented and the potential of selenium in modern oncology is extensively discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Nutrition and Dietetics