Magnesium in most cancers and immunity

  • Magnesium deficiency has links to a variety of diseases.
  • Researchers have now shown in mice how magnesium improves the immune system’s ability to clear infected and cancerous cells.
  • Their analysis of clinical trial data also suggests that low serum levels of the substance are associated with poorer outcomes in cancer treatment.
  • They plan to investigate the potential benefits of magnesium supplementation during cancer therapy in future clinical trials.

Experts define magnesium as an “essential macromineral,” meaning people need to consume it in relatively large amounts to stay healthy.

Rich food sources of the mineral include almonds, cashews, peanuts, and spinach. Walnuts also contain a lot of magnesium, 100 grams contain 63% of the recommended daily dose.

Adequate dietary magnesium intake is associated with healthy bones, a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and better cardiovascular health.

The mineral also plays a key role in muscle contraction, nerve transmission, blood pressure regulation and immunity.

Previous research has shown that cancer spreads faster in mice on a low-magnesium diet. In addition, the animals have a weaker immune system against influenza viruses.

However, little research has been done on exactly how magnesium supports a healthy immune system.

Scientists in Switzerland have now discovered that a type of immune cell called cytotoxic or “killer” T cells can only eliminate cancerous or infected cells in the presence of magnesium.

Their study appears in Cell.

The authors found that magnesium activates a protein called LFA-1 on the surface of cytotoxic T cells, which they use to attach to their target cells.

“[I]In the inactive state, this docking site is in a bent conformation and therefore cannot efficiently bind to infected or abnormal cells,” explains senior author Dr. Christoph Hess, Ph.D., from the University of Basel in Switzerland and the University of Cambridge in the UK.

“When magnesium is present in sufficient quantities near the T-cells, it binds to LFA-1 and keeps it in an extended – and therefore active – position,” he adds.

When the researchers analyzed data from previous clinical trials of cancer immunotherapies, they found that low serum magnesium levels were associated with faster disease progression and shorter survival.

“Based on our experimental data and the retrospective analyzes we performed in two clinical trials, magnesium deficiency is very likely responsible for at least some of the inadequate efficacy seen in cancer patients receiving immunotherapy,” said Dr. Hess told Medical News Today.

“The results don’t surprise me,” said Taylor C. Wallace, Ph.D., of the new study.

dr Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Magnesium Education & Research in Hawaii and an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.

“Magnesium is involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions in the body, many of which are involved in immune system function,” he told MNT.

However, he questioned whether serum magnesium concentration, which scientists often use to measure a person’s status with respect to the mineral, is a reliable marker.

He pointed out that most serum magnesium is bound to the protein albumin and is therefore not as readily available to the body as another form known as ionized blood magnesium.

“How extracellular magnesium affects immunity is an exciting and promising area of ​​science,” he told MNT.

“However, the research community must simultaneously evaluate ionized whole blood magnesium (not commonly used in research) to fully understand the diet [or] Dietary supplements can affect status,” he added.

dr Hess and his colleagues are now looking for ways to increase the magnesium concentration in patients’ tumors.

He said they want to test whether they can use tiny fat packets – either lipid nanoparticles or liposomes – filled with magnesium and coated with antibodies to improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy.

“In our work, we show that this is a successful strategy in mice,” he added.

They will also test whether giving magnesium supplements — either in pills or injections — to cancer patients can improve outcomes with two immunotherapies: CAR-T cell and PD1/PDL1 therapies.

“We have clinical trials at an advanced planning stage,” he said.

Their newly published study analyzed data on serum magnesium levels from previous clinical trials, so they could only establish an association and not a causal relationship between magnesium and treatment outcomes.

It is also not known whether regular intake of magnesium, either through diet or supplements, can reduce the risk of cancer in healthy people.

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