Popular dietary supplement linked to cancer risk, brain metastasis

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While previous studies have linked commercial dietary supplements like nicotinamide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B3, to benefits related to cardiovascular, metabolic and neurological health, new research from the University of Missouri has found NR could actually increase the risk of serious disease, including developing cancer.

The international team of researchers led by Elena Goun, an associate professor of chemistry at MU, discovered high levels of NR could not only increase someone's risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer, but also could cause the cancer to metastasize or spread to the brain. Once the cancer reaches the brain, the results are deadly because no viable treatment options exist at this time, said Goun, who is the corresponding author on the study.

Some people take them [vitamins and supplements] because they automatically assume that vitamins and supplements only have positive health benefits, but very little is known about how they actually work. Because of this lack of knowledge, we were inspired to study the basic questions surrounding how vitamins and supplements work in the body."

Elena Goun, associate professor of chemistry at MU

Following the death of her 59-year-old father only three months after being diagnosed with colon cancer, Goun was moved by her father's passing to pursue a better scientific understanding of cancer metabolism, or the energy through which cancer spreads in the body. Since NR is a known supplement for helping increase levels of cellular energy, and cancer cells feed off of that energy with their increased metabolism, Goun wanted to investigate NR's role in the development and spread of cancer.

"Our work is especially important given the wide commercial availability and a large number of ongoing human clinical trials where NR is used to mitigate the side effects of cancer therapy in patients," Goun said.

The researchers used this technology to compare and examine how much NR levels were present in cancer cells, T cells and healthy tissues.

"While NR is already being widely used in people and is being investigated in so many ongoing clinical trials for additional applications, much of how NR works is a black box -; it's not understood," Goun said. "So that inspired us to come up with this novel imaging technique based on ultrasensitive bioluminescent imaging that allows quantification of NR levels in real time in a non-invasive manner. The presence of NR is shown with light, and the brighter the light is, the more NR is present."

Goun said the findings of the study emphasize the importance of having careful investigations of potential side effects for supplements like NR prior to their use in people who may have different types of health conditions. In the future, Goun would like to provide information that could potentially lead to the development of certain inhibitors to help make cancer therapies like chemotherapy more effective in treating cancer. The key to this approach, Goun said, is to look at it from a personalized medicine standpoint.

"Not all cancers are the same in every person, especially from the standpoint of metabolic signatures," Goun said. "Often times cancers can even change their metabolism before or after chemotherapy."

"A bioluminescent-based probe for in vivo non-invasive monitoring of nicotinamide riboside uptake reveals a link between metastasis and NAD+ metabolism" was published in the Journal of Biosensors and Bioelectronics. Funding was provided by grants from the European Research Council (ERC-2019-COG, 866338) and Swiss National Foundation (51NF40_185898), as well as support from NCCR Chemical Biology.

Other authors on the study are Arkadiy Bazhin, Pavlo Khodakivskyi, Ekaterina Solodnikova and Aleksey Yevtodiyenko at MU; Tamara Maric at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology; Greta Maria Paola Giordano Attianese, George Coukos and Melita Irving at The Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Switzerland; and Magali Joffraud and Carles Cantó at the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences in Switzerland. Bazhin, Khodakivskyi, Mikhaylov, Solodnikova, Yevtodiyenko and Goun are also affiliated with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Mikhaylov, Yevtodiyenko and Goun are also affiliated with SwissLumix SARL in Switzerland.

Journal reference:

Maric, T., et al. (2022) A bioluminescent-based probe for in vivo non-invasive monitoring of nicotinamide riboside uptake reveals a link between metastasis and NAD+ metabolism. Biosensors and Bioelectronics. doi.org/10.1016/j.bios.2022.114826.


  1. Melissa Smith Melissa Smith United States says:

    Well...it sounds like it is preventing aging. So it is doing what they said it would 🤷‍♀️

  2. Stephen Scholem Stephen Scholem Australia says:

    While the article is a bit skimpy, the gist seems to be that NR is found in higher concentrations in breast cancer metastases than in normal tissue. There is no reference to any prospective studies comparing intake of NR with intake of placebo. The old issue of distinguishing cause and effect arises.

  3. Chris A Chris A United States says:

    I'm wondering if they controlled for the naturally occurring conformation of the molecule vs. syntheticly derived conformation that technically is the formula, but a different 3D shape, affecting how the cells absorb it, dispose of it and cellular level consequences along each path... I got impatient squinting to read article around half way through it, so maybe it's in there

  4. Steve Reston Steve Reston United States says:

    So tired of studies like this that are usually flawed and inconclusive. The benefits of a complex B supplement far out number the negative effects they are trying to scare us with in this article. Anytime there is something proven to be helpful they have to put out a study like this. Coconut oil, turmeric, fish oil, are all helpful but since they are helping someone stay healthy there must be a warning put out that they are actually bad.
    Ignore articles like this, stay away from the evil covid vaccine, keep doing what you are doing if you are health conscious.

  5. Martin Pishpecki Martin Pishpecki Netherlands says:

    Research in the link cannot be obtained. You have to purchase it. Why would someone "out of the goodness on their hart" tell me a piece of information in the intent of changing my behaviour but when asked about the proof - I am asked to pay.

    Its like saing: dont do this you will die in the worst way. If you ask where is your proof, you get a response: I cant tell you that, you have to trust me.

    Either you share the information for the good of all and provide all that you have. Or withhold all information for only people that pay for your research.

    This duality makes me doubt the sincerity of the good intentions in making and distributing this research.

    If I read correctly Nestle was involved in the research. Goodness of their hart is well known to the world. If doctor Josef Mengele gave you advice for healthy life would you trust it or would you think: what is your angle, and how will your advice damage me?

  6. Helen Nowlin Helen Nowlin United States says:

    The way I understood this study by what I heard in a Dr. Sinclair interview is that the supplement enhances blood flow to the body. If you have certain cancers particularly lymphatic or related areas, or if it is of the type more likely cross the blood - brain barrier, the enhanced functioning and improved blood flow might increase the spread of cancer in the body. The supplementation is not the cause of cancer that is a derivative of B3 vitamin, and naturally occurs in our bodies. I shouldn't be afraid of enhanced performance or oxygenation of the body. This study is misleading and rubbish.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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