J Cancer 2021; 12(18):5543-5561. doi:10.7150/jca.54699 This issue


Dual Role of Reactive Oxygen Species and their Application in Cancer Therapy

Run Huang#, Huan Chen#, Jiayu Liang, Yi Li, Jiali Yang, Chuang Luo, Youshan Tang, Yu Ding, Xing Liu, Qing Yuan, Hong Yu, Yingchun Ye, Wenfeng Xu, Xiang Xie

Public Center of Experimental Technology, The school of Basic Medical Sciences, Southwest Medical University, Luzhou, Sichuan Province, 646000, China.
#These authors contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). See http://ivyspring.com/terms for full terms and conditions.
Huang R, Chen H, Liang J, Li Y, Yang J, Luo C, Tang Y, Ding Y, Liu X, Yuan Q, Yu H, Ye Y, Xu W, Xie X. Dual Role of Reactive Oxygen Species and their Application in Cancer Therapy. J Cancer 2021; 12(18):5543-5561. doi:10.7150/jca.54699. Available from https://www.jcancer.org/v12p5543.htm

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Graphic abstract

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a dual role in the initiation, development, suppression, and treatment of cancer. Excess ROS can induce nuclear DNA, leading to cancer initiation. Not only that, but ROS also inhibit T cells and natural killer cells and promote the recruitment and M2 polarization of macrophages; consequently, cancer cells escape immune surveillance and immune defense. Furthermore, ROS promote tumor invasion and metastasis by triggering epithelial-mesenchymal transition in tumor cells. Interestingly, massive accumulation of ROS inhibits tumor growth in two ways: (1) by blocking cancer cell proliferation by suppressing the proliferation signaling pathway, cell cycle, and the biosynthesis of nucleotides and ATP and (2) by inducing cancer cell death via activating endoplasmic reticulum stress-, mitochondrial-, and P53- apoptotic pathways and the ferroptosis pathway. Unfortunately, cancer cells can adapt to ROS via a self-adaption system. This review highlighted the bidirectional regulation of ROS in cancer. The study further discussed the application of massively accumulated ROS in cancer treatment. Of note, the dual role of ROS in cancer and the self-adaptive ability of cancer cells should be taken into consideration for cancer prevention.

Keywords: reactive oxygen species, cancer, pro-tumor, anti-cancer, self-adaption system, therapy