Although the use of antioxidants for the treatment of cancer and HIV/AIDS has been proposed for decades, new insights gained from redox research have suggested a very different scenario. These new data show that the major cellular antioxidant systems, the thioredoxin (Trx) and glutathione (GSH) systems, actually promote cancer growth and HIV infection, while suppressing an effective immune response. Mechanistically, these systems control both the redox- and NO-based pathways (nitroso-redox homeostasis), which subserve innate and cellular immune defenses. Dual inhibition of the Trx and GSH systems synergistically kills neoplastic cells in vitro and in mice and decreases resistance to anticancer therapy. Similarly, the population of HIV reservoir cells that constitutes the major barrier to a cure for AIDS is exquisitely redox sensitive and could be selectively targeted by Trx and GSH inhibitors. Trx and GSH inhibition may lead to a reprogramming of the immune response, tilting the balance between the immune system and cancer or HIV in favor of the former, allowing elimination of diseased cells. Thus, therapies based on silencing of the Trx and GSH pathways represent a promising approach for the cure of both cancer and AIDS and warrant further investigation.
Moran Benhar, Iart Luca Shytaj, Jonathan S. Stamler, Andrea Savarino