Common decongestant NAC can fight cancer

Common decongestant NAC can fight cancer

N-Acetyl Cysteine, NAC, an over the counter decongestant, can be used ‘off-label to reduce a tumour’s ability to feed off the surrounding environment by blocking the ‘transporter protein’ MCT4.

Clinical trials with breast cancer patients awaiting surgery in America have shown that NAC, a cheap, over-the-counter supplement can help starve a cancer tumour. The research was conducted by The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University, in Philadelphia.

There’s a long held theory that cancer cells in a tumour ‘stroma’ are being maintained and strengthened by the presence of MCT4, a ‘transporter’ protein which transports lactate (a source of energy) to them from adjacent cells.

A tumor stroma mainly consists of the membrane, fibroblasts, extracellular matrix, immune cells, and blood vessels. Most host cells in the stroma possess certain tumour-suppressing abilities but the stroma changes during malignancy and eventually promotes growth, invasion, and metastasis. 

High levels of stromal MCT4 are linked to aggressive cancer behaviour and poor overall survival.

In the research, cancer patients taking high doses of NAC recorded an 80% fall in MCT4 which reduced the ability of the cancer cells in the tumour to feed off their neighbours’ lactate.

The research team, which included Professor Michael Lisanti, of the University of Salford and Dr. Ubaldo Martinez-Outschoorn, in the USA, conducted a 'window trial' on only 12 patients, but the results were consistent. Patients were given maximum daily doses of NAC for three weeks between diagnosis and surgery. Tumour tissue biopsies were taken before and during surgery and MCT4 and K167, were measured post-surgery.

MCT4 levels were reduced by approximately 80%.  

K167, a cancer cell antigen often used as a marker for breast cancer growth, fell by 25%.

The results were published in Seminars in Oncology (1).

Glutathione production

It is also possible that NAC is encouraging the generation of glutathione. Glutathione is often called 'The Master Antioxidant'. Along with melatonin it helps to claen up the microenvironment of cells. Glutathione is made from three amino acids: cysteine, glycine and glutamic acid (glutamate).

The important point about glutathione is that you should allow your body to make it and regulate its production. Glutathione supplements and IV glutathione can be harmful to the brain and liver and can even promote cancer. By allowing your body to regulate the production of glutathione, you can help reduce free-radicals in the cell.

You would not want to supplement with glutamate as it can be a fuel for cancer cells, and research shows that glycine supplementation hardly prompts glutathione production. However L-cysteine and NAC supplementation does. Levels of production decline as we age.

Go to: N-Acetyl cysteine, Covid, cancer and respiratory illness


  1. Daniel Monti, Federica Sotgia, Diana Whitaker- Menezes, Madalina Tuluc, Ruth Birbe, Adam Berger, Melissa Lazar, Paolo Cotzia, Rossitza Draganova-Tacheva, Zhao Lin, Marina Domingo-Vidal, Andrew Newberg, Michael P. Lisanti, Ubaldo Martinez-Outschoorn. Pilot study demonstrating metabolic and anti-proliferative effects of in vivo anti-oxidant supplementation with N-Acetylcysteine in Breast Cancer. Seminars in Oncology


  Approved by the Medical Board. Click Here 


2020 Research
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