N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a popular anti-aging dietary supplement, was discovered to restore breast cancer cells’ sensitivity to the medication alpelisib, a treatment for advanced-stage breast cancer.
Alpelisib, a kinase-inhibiting medication marketed under the brand names Piqray and others, is used to treat metastatic breast cancer, according to Healthnews. It functions by inhibiting the signals that cause cancer cells to proliferate.
However, cancer cells can develop resistance to drugs such as alpelisib, reducing the medication’s efficacy and allowing the disease to continue to spread. Given the limited treatment options for metastatic breast cancer, it is crucial to discover a way to combat drug resistance.
Researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland investigated the genetic foundation of drug resistance in cancer cells in a new study published on April 11 in the journal Cell Reports Medicine.
They discovered that mutations of the tumor-suppressing neurofibromin 1 (NF1) gene led to a diminished response to alpelisib. Specifically, the absence of NF1 caused cancer cells to develop drug resistance. After further examination, the scientists determined that the absence of NF1 alters how the mitochondria of a cell produce energy.
As a result of NAC’s effect on cellular energy production, the scientists conducted experiments with the supplement and discovered that it restored and enhanced the efficacy of alpelisib in drug-resistant cancer cells.
According to Professor Mohamed Bentires-Alj, the combination of N-acetylcysteine and alpelisib could enhance the treatment of advanced breast cancer. He observes, however, that future clinical studies involving breast cancer patients must confirm these encouraging laboratory results.
In addition, the authors of the study state that NF1 loss also occurs in other instances where cells develop drug resistance. Combining NAC with these medications may therefore reverse drug resistance in certain instances.