Nicotinamide Riboside May Increase Breast Cancer Risk, Metastasis


Study suggests that high levels of nicotinamide riboside could increase the risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer and may cause the cancer to metastasize to the brain.

The dietary supplement nicotinamide riboside (NR) may increase the risk of developing a specific type of breast cancer and subsequent metastasis to the brain, according to a study from the University of Missouri (MU). The study authors noted this finding is in contrast to prior research linking the supplement to benefits related to cardiovascular, metabolic, and neurological health.

The researchers noted that high levels of NR could increase a person’s risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer and may cause the cancer to metastasize to the brain. According to the study authors, once the cancer reaches the brain, the results are deadly due to a lack of viable treatment options at the time.

“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,” said Elena Goun, study lead and associate professor of chemistry at MU, in a press release. “Because of this lack of knowledge, we were inspired to study the basic questions surrounding how vitamins and supplements work in the body.”

NR is known as a supplement for helping increase levels of cellular energy, and cancer cells feed off that energy with their increased metabolism. Because of this finding, the study authors sought to further 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 in a press release.

The research team used new technology to compare and analyze 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 in a press release. “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 noted that the findings of the study emphasize the importance of having careful investigations of potential adverse effects for supplements such as NR prior to their use in people who may have different types of health conditions.

The study authors said that future research on should seek to obtain more information from a personalized medicine standpoint so that health care providers could focus on the development of certain inhibitors and help cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy, be more effective in treating cancer.

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


Study: Popular dietary supplement increases breast cancer risk, brain metastasis. University of Missouri. November 18, 2022. Accessed November 15, 2022.

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