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Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 2467940, 12 pages
Review Article

The Roles of ROS in Cancer Heterogeneity and Therapy

1Mogi das Cruzes University (UMC), Villa Lobos Campus, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil
2Laboratory of Genetics, Butantan Institute, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil
3Morphology and Genetic Department, University Federal of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil
4University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil
5Department of Immunology, Laboratory of Tumor Immunology, Institute of Biomedical Science, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil

Correspondence should be addressed to Paulo Luiz de Sá Junior and Adilson Kleber Ferreira

Received 5 May 2017; Revised 3 August 2017; Accepted 27 August 2017; Published 16 October 2017

Academic Editor: Tullia Maraldi

Copyright © 2017 Paulo Luiz de Sá Junior et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cancer comprises a group of heterogeneous diseases encompassing high rates of morbidity and mortality. Heterogeneity, which is a hallmark of cancer, is one of the main factors related to resistance to chemotherapeutic agents leading to poor prognosis. Heterogeneity is profoundly affected by increasing levels of ROS. Under low concentrations, ROS may function as signaling molecules favoring tumorigenesis and heterogeneity, while under high ROS concentrations, these species may work as cancer modulators due to their deleterious, genotoxic or even proapoptotic effect on cancer cells. This double-edged sword effect represented by ROS relies on their ability to cause genetic and epigenetic modifications in DNA structure. Antitumor therapeutic approaches may use molecules that prevent the ROS formation precluding carcinogenesis or use chemical agents that promote a sudden increase of ROS causing considerable oxidative stress inside tumor mass. Therefore, herein, we review what ROS are and how they are produced in normal and in cancer cells while providing an argumentative discussion about their role in cancer pathophysiology. We also describe the various sources of ROS in cancer and their role in tumor heterogeneity. Further, we also discuss some therapeutic strategies from the current landscape of cancer heterogeneity, ROS modulation, or ROS production.