Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are a group of highly reactive chemicals under tight control of intracellular antioxidants.
The balance in oxidation-antioxidation is essential for maintaining normal cell functions, and any imbalance
could lead to a wide range of diseases including cancer. The intracellular level of ROS is generally elevated in cancer
cells, revealing a critical role of ROS in the process of carcinogenesis and cancer progression. Conversely, there is also
evidence showing that ROS can act as cancer suppressors. This may be due to the varying antioxidant capacities of different
cancers. These findings indicate a complex redox state in cancer cells. In this review we summarize the main features
of ROS and their functions with respect to cancer initiation, hallmarks of cancer, and signaling in cancer cells. ROSelevating
and ROS-depleting anticancer strategies and their mechanisms are thoroughly discussed. We argue that the rationale
for therapy choice depends on a complete understanding of cancer cell redox state, namely, the “redox signaling
signature” of cancer.
Keywords: Antioxidants, cancer biology, cancer progression, cancer therapy, carcinogenesis, reactive oxygen species.
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