A few years ago, scientists in Sweden sparked a heated debate when they published research suggesting that taking antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin E, could make cancer more invasive. Their revelations challenged the belief that antioxidants can help fight cancer. The new studies, which the researchers carried out using human tissue and mice, reveal how lung cancer cells use antioxidants to withstand oxidative stress and thrive. Both studies focus on the effect that reducing oxidative stress has on a protein called BTB domain and CNC homolog 1 (BACH1). It appears that reducing oxidative stress through antioxidants can raise the stability of BACH1 and boost its accumulation in lung cancer cells. "We hope these findings help to dispel the myth that antioxidants like vitamin E help to prevent every type of cancer," says Thales Papagiannakopoulos, Ph.D. Previous studies have shown that approximately 30% of non-small cell lung cancers flourish because their cells have acquired one of two types of mutation that promote antioxidant production. The new U.S. study investigated these mutations. The new findings show that the aggressive metastasizing induced by antioxidants can be blocked by stopping the production of BACH1 or by using drugs that suppress the breakdown of sugar. “For lung cancer patients, taking vitamin E may cause the same increases in cancer's ability to spread as the NRF2 and KEAP1 mutations that our team has linked to shorter survival," says Thales Papagiannakopoulos, Ph.D.