How Zinc Supplements Can Inhibit Esophageal Cancer Cells

Dr. Kristine Reese, at LotusRain Naturopathic Clinic in San Diego brings more than 20 years of experience partnering with people on their healing journeys. Her practice incorporates many effective therapies – clinical nutrition (including supplements, like zinc), hormone balance, chelation, IV’s, homeopathy, botanical medicine, counseling, and empowerment work.


Dr. Reese believes strongly in the body’s inherent ability to heal and encourages patients to take an active role in their health. She combines her diverse background and experience with tools and wisdom from the East and West, providing genuinely holistic primary care.


According to a new study co-authored by a University of Texas at Arlington researcher, zinc supplements can significantly inhibit the proliferation of esophageal cancer cells. (1)


Previous studies had shown that zinc is essential for maintaining human health and protects the esophagus from cancer. However, it has never been fully understood why zinc can prevent cancer in the esophagus.


In this study, a team led by Zui Pan, an associate professor of nursing at UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation and a noted esophageal cancer researcher, discovered that zinc selectively halts cancer cells’ growth, not normal esophageal epithelial cells. The finding was published in The FASEB Journal, the official journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.


According to the National Cancer Institute, esophageal cancer is the sixth leading cause of human cancer deaths worldwide. The institute estimates that there were almost 16,000 esophageal cancer deaths in the United States in 2016. In addition, the average 5-year survival rate is less than 20%. Pan said this study could provide a pathway for better esophageal cancer prevention and treatment.


“Zinc deficiency has been found in many cancer patients,” said Pan, whose study was funded in part by a research grant from the National Institutes of Health. “Both clinical data and animal studies have shown that this mineral is very important for overall body health and for cancer prevention.”


Zinc and cancer cells


Zinc is an essential element in many proteins and many enzymes. The absence of zinc makes it impossible for cells to function, she added. “But previously, we didn’t know why the same physiological concentrations of zinc inhibit cancer cell growth but not normal cells.


“Our study, for the first time to our knowledge, reveals that zinc impedes overactive calcium signals in cancer cells, which is absent in normal cells, and thus zinc selectively inhibits cancer cell growth,” Pan said. “It now appears that zinc and calcium can have a cross talk, meaning that they can be linked.”


An insufficient amount of zinc can lead to the development of cancers and other diseases, Pan said.


“That’s why it is important to have a good diet,” she said. Zinc enriched foods include spinach, flax seeds, beef, pumpkin seeds, and seafood like shrimp and oysters. Pan said that in the future, they will study these two signals link, how they impact each other, and how researchers can take advantage of what they know. Such a step will guide them in developing a better prevention and treatment strategy, she said.


Anne Bavier, dean of UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, called Pan’s study a classic example of UTA’s commitment to high-impact research. “It re-affirms UTA’s position as a major player in the global battle against cancer,” Bavier said. “Zui’s work on esophageal cancer gets straight to the heart our goal at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation to help solve health problems to build a healthier world.”





(1) Sangyong Choi, Chaochu Cui, Yanhong Luo, Sun-Hee Kim, Jae-Kyun Ko, Xiaofang Huo, Jianjie Ma, Li-wu Fu, Rhonda F. Souza, Irina Korichneva, Zui Pan. Selective inhibitory effects of zinc on cell proliferation in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma through Orai1. The FASEB Journal, 2017; fj.201700227RRR DOI: 10.1096/fj.201700227RRR

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