Metals and cancer

Vetlényi Enikő, Rácz Gergely
Semmelweis Egyetem, I. Sz. Patológiai és Kísérleti Rákkutató Intézet, Budapest

We often tend to forget about our environment when looking for the origin of a disease. Inhaled air, drinking water and food, substances in contact with the skin all have an effect on the human body. Metals are indispensable parts of our everyday lives, their mining, processing and use cause a continuous exposure to them. Metal exert their effects on the body in various ways. Many of them are essential for maintaining homeostasis, but excessive or harmful metal intake can lead to health damage, including tumour formation through multiple attack points. Metals substitute each other during different transport processes and in the structure of proteins, they cause oxidative stress and bind to DNA, thereby damaging it. Applying them appropriately, the proapoptotic effect of the metal compounds is brought to the fore, thus becoming a therapeutic tool for tumours. Nowadays, platinum(II) compounds are widely used as chemotherapeutic agents and there are many ongoing studies to fi nd metal compounds with an ideal therapeutic and side-effect profi le. The aims of this article were to draw the attention to the dangers of metals in relation to cancer and to highlight their diverse application possibilities in current and future cancer therapy and diagnostics.

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