A Summary of New Findings on the Biological Effects of Selenium in Selected Animal Species—A Critical Review
Chemoprevention that impedes one or more steps in carcinogenesis, via long-term administration of naturally occurring or synthetic compounds, is widely considered to be a crucial strategy for cancer control. Selenium (Se) has chemopreventive effects, but its application is limited due to a low therapeutic index as shown in numerous animal experiments. In contrast to Se, which was known for its toxicity prior to the discovery of its beneficial effects, the natural compound epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) was originally considered to be nontoxic. Due to its preventive effects on many types of cancer in various animal models, EGCG has been regarded as a prime example of a promising chemopreventive agent without major toxicity concerns. However, very recently, evidence has accumulated showing that efficacious doses of EGCG used in health promotion may not be far from its toxic dose level. Therefore, both Se and EGCG need to be modified by novel pharmaceutical technologies to attain enhanced efficacy and/or reduced toxicity. Nanotechnology may be one of these technologies. In support of this hypothesis, the characteristics of polylactic acid and polyethylene glycol-encapsulated nano-EGCG and elemental Se nanoparticles dispersed by bovine serum albumin are reviewed in this article. Encapsulation of EGCG to form nano-EGCG leads to its enhanced stability in plasma and remarkably superior chemopreventive effects, with more than tenfold dose advantages in inducing apoptosis and inhibition of both angiogenesis and tumor growth. Se at nanoparticle size ("Nano-Se"), compared with Se compounds commonly used in dietary supplements, has significantly lower toxicity, without compromising its ability to upregulate selenoenzymes at nutritional levels and induce phase II enzymes at supranutritional levels.