Stephen Levine, PhD, Townsend Letter, The Examiner of Alternative Medicine, February 10, 2024

I was prompted to write this letter based upon the rather dramatic complete recovery by a close friend of mine from advanced prostate cancer.  He experienced no side effects from the treatment and took no other supplements nor medicines.

Here, I cite a recent paper published in Translational Oncology (Nov. 2019), “Phase 1 Study of Sodium Selenite in Combination with Palliative Radiation Therapy in Patients with Metastatic Cancer”1:

Little is known regarding the use of selenium as inorganic sodium selenite, as a cancer therapy.  Our results1-6 as well as those of other groups7,8 support the novel idea that selenium in the form of selenite, can be used to treat prostate as well as other types of cancer. Importantly, selenite is metabolized differently from organic forms of selenium, with the key difference being that the metabolism of selenite depletes cancer cells of an important antioxidant glutathione and results in the generation of superoxide which is a highly reactive and toxic radical and that then can lead to the generation of other toxic radical species.

This combination of radicals, the depletion of cancer cell glutathione, and the general deficit of antioxidant enzymes often in cancer cells, may then explain significant therapeutic effects as described.

Our clinical studies show that, 1) prostate cancer cells are more sensitive to induced apoptosis than normal prostate epithelial cells and, 2) selenite induces significant growth inhibition of well-established cancer tumors in mice at doses that have no detectable toxicity when administered both intraperitoneally and orally to non-cancerous animals.  Selenite disrupts androgen receptor signaling with inhibition of androgen receptor (AR) expression via redox mechanisms involving glutathione, superoxide, and transcription factor SP1.

Selenite has the potential to sensitize a wide range of tumor types.

In this phase 1 human trial described here, sodium selenite doses of 5.5 mg 11mg, 16.5 mg, 33 mg, and 49.5 mg were given concurrently with palliative radiation therapy to patients with metastatic cancer.  The primary objective of the study was to access the safety and tolerability of this combination therapy.”1

I think it’s important to understand some of the details of this study.  The 15 patients continued to take their cancer drugs, plus other prescribed drugs. They were given their dose of selenite two hours before receiving their radiation treatments.

Therefore, the patients were likely bearing a higher toxic burden without detoxification procedures that many doctors in the alternative world might employ.  Secondly, patients were not permitted to eat or drink in the two-hour period between consuming selenite treatment and radiation treatment to avoid interference with the selenite’s oxidative therapeutic effects of depleting cancer cell glutathione and other of its potential therapeutic oxidative effects. Some of these reports show some high statistical significance associated with the findings.

First Recognition That Selenium Might Be Independently Valuable for Cancer 

The first time I heard of the use of selenite to treat cancer patients was in an email letter that I received from a Canadian who reported on five cases in Australia.  The first four individuals had advanced colon cancer and consumed 6 mg of sodium selenite in water upon arising.  These are very high doses of selenium.  Apparently, all were cured with no side effects.  There was also the mention of a prostate cancer patient who was also cured using 6 mgs of sodium selenite following the same procedure with no side effects.  If the email is even partially true, then it could be quite important.

Kenyan Preacher

In April of 2022, a friend of mine, a beloved preacher from Kenya, became ill and was found to have a PSA of 3000.  I showed him the letter I had received about the Australian cases. He prayed and was directed to take the selenium as per the cases reported from Australia, however, using only 3 mg of selenium in water upon arising and not eating or drinking for 2 hours.

Within a week, his intense pain receded completely. He had been taking prescription pain medication, which was no longer needed.  Within two weeks, his appetite returned, and since then he has regained his lost weight.  He had previously lost about 25 pounds.  He continued to improve and continued taking selenium for four or five months at the 3 mg dose.  He refused to take more lab tests, but he insisted he was fully recovered. There were at least five other people besides his wife and I who witnessed his rapid and complete recovery.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Dr. Alfred Zamm, MD, is a dermatologist but broadly oriented medically speaking.  In an article he published in the Townsend Letter, Dr. Zamm reports that selenite and zinc gluconate had apparently cured a patient with basal cell carcinoma.9 This is a single clinical case observation describing the rapid disappearance of a basal cell carcinoma shortly after simultaneous administration of sodium selenite and zinc gluconate. No other therapeutic measures or major changes occurred in the patient’s life.

The individual took a total of 80 micrograms of selenite, per day in water as 40 μg—once in the morning after arising and a second time later in the day.  He did not eat or drink anything afterwards for ten minutes, so as not to interfere with the selenite’s action. He took 30 mg per day of zinc as gluconate at meals twice a day. Five months later the basal cell carcinoma had disappeared, and two years later he remained cancer free.  There are shortcomings to this report as discussed in the article; but in the context of this provocative letter, it may have merit.


A friend of mine, Georgia, had breast cancer before I met her. In 2017 she stayed in bed for about a week, complaining that her breast cancer had returned. I showed her the letter about the patients in Australia.  She started taking 1.5 mgs of selenium per day and within five or six days, she recovered her full energy.  She stopped the selenite therapy, as she felt it made her feel dizzy.

I doubted that her quick recovery was due to the selenium because the therapeutic effects were too fast, I thought.  She moved away and, sadly, I found that she had died of pancreatic cancer about a year later.  What might have happened had she continued with the selenite therapy?

Considering the preacher’s rapid relief from symptoms of intense pain, I think that sodium selenite had given Georgia a reprieve.

Other Cases

Two other well documented cancer patients had tried sodium selenite and had to stop taking it because of GI intolerance, as nausea and vomiting.   A list of “symptoms of selenium toxicity in humans” can be found with a Google search.


It’s important to note that the doses used in the study and those that I discussed, are pharmacological doses, much higher than nutritional doses.  Anyone choosing to use selenium in these very high doses, for any reason, needs medical supervision and lab tests to monitor selenium levels and possibly generalized oxidative stress tests.

To me, there are some indications from  clinical cases, and from the cited study, that the sodium selenite may be better tolerated in some cancer patients than in noncancer patients.  There are, however, side effects reported in the study cited above, in cancer patients.1

Why might some cancer patients appear to tolerate these elevated doses of selenite, and in some cases over a long period of time?  The selenite molecule is likely acting as a direct oxidant to facilitate cancer cell glutathione diminution. This suggests a direct interaction of selenite with cancer cells, and selenite as a reactive oxidant might also bind covalently to cancer tissue and get tied up or sequestered therein.  In this way it could spare the host of the systemic toxic burden, at least for a period.

The findings that selenite inhibits cancer cell growth, increases apoptosis of those cancer cells, and leads to enhanced superoxide production—more so than normal cells—is also largely due to its direct and indirect oxidizing effects.

Oxidative therapies have been used to treat cancer for many decades.  Cancer cells are classically deficient in antioxidant protective enzyme systems, importantly, both copper-zinc and manganese varieties of superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidases.  These antioxidant protective enzymes are the powerful protective barriers against reactive free radical and peroxide-type chemicals.  Both radiation therapy and many types of chemotherapies function by producing free radicals, which are themselves the therapeutic agents in treatment. It is believed that these enzyme deficiencies cause cancer cells to be vulnerable to oxidative treatments.10

Therefore, the mechanisms reported in this phase one study are consistent with the oxidative theme of common medical chemotherapies and with radiation therapy.  The role of both types of superoxide dismutase is to detoxify superoxide.  In the study cited, it is stated that selenite generates superoxide, so the cancer tissue presumably would be more vulnerable to further oxidatively damaged, and therefore more vulnerable to apoptosis.

A recent review article discusses the therapeutic significance of antioxidants in brain tumors, and one can see these same redox themes playing out but, however, based upon the preconditions I have discussed.11

Forty years ago, I used selenium to improve my chemical tolerance.10 Additionally, Dr. Alfred Zamm, MD, and Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, MD, repeated their own trials to find similar improvement in chemical-sensitive patients with selenium.  We also know that selenium can protect against getting cancer.  Now we are finding that selenite may be itself a promising treatment for cancer.

The chemicals that cause chemical hypersensitivity are generally the same chemicals that are carcinogens.6,10 Chemical sensitivities are likely manifestations of immediate inflammatory response of patients to the toxins as oxidants,  and the inflammatory consequences in many cases.  Cancer is more related to long-term oxidative mutagenic, hypoxic, and inflammatory consequences related to these toxic chemicals.10


  1. Results from a Phase 1 Study of Sodium Selenite in Combination with Palliative Radiation Therapy in Patients with Metastatic Cancer. Translational Oncology.November 2019; 12 (11): pp 1525-1531.
  2. Inhibition of androgen receptor signaling by selenite and methylseleninic acid in prostate cancer cells: two distinct mechanisms of actionMol Cancer Ther, 5 (8) (2006), pp. 2078-2085, 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-06-0056
  3. Redox modulation of human prostate carcinoma cells by selenite increases radiation-induced cell killing. Free Radic Biol Med. 2005; 38 (1): pp. 50-57. 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2004.09.022
  4. Tumor-selective killing by selenite in patient-matched pairs of normal and malignant prostate cells. Prostate. 2006; 66 (2): pp. 218-225, 10.1002/pros.20337
  5. Selenite treatment inhibits LAPC-4 tumor growth and prostate-specific antigen secretion in a xenograft model of human prostate cancer. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2008;72 (3): pp. 935-940. 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2008.07.005
  6. Biochemical-Pathology by Free Radicals, Oxidant Chemicals, and Therapeutic Drugs in the Etiology of Chemical Hypersensitivity Disease.  JOP. 1983;12 number 3: pp 166-183.
  7. Sodium selenite radiosensitizes hormone-refractory prostate cancer xenograft tumors but not intestinal crypt cells in vivo. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2010;78 (1): pp. 230-236. 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2010.03.006
  8. Inorganic selenium retards progression of experimental hormone refractory prostate cancer. J Urol. 2004;171 (2): pp. 907-910. 10.1097/01.ju.0000092859.16817.8e
  9. Sodium Selente and Zinc Gluconate – A Cure for Basal Cell Carcinoma. Townsend Letter. 2018; vol. 419.
  10. Antioxidant Adaptation; Its Role in Free Radical Pathology. (Fourth printing) 2001. Allergy Research Group.
  11. Antioxidants in Brain Tumors: Current Therapeutic significance and future.   Prospect Mol Cancer.2022 Oct 28;21(1):204. 10.1186/s12943-022-01668-9

About the Author

Stephen A. Levine, PhD, is recognized internationally for his classic text on free radical biochemistry – Antioxidant Adaptation: Its Role in Free Radical Pathology (Levine & Kidd, 1985) – and as a leader in the development of research-based nutritional supplementation. He founded Allergy Research Group (ARG) in 1979, and in 1980 he founded the company’s subsidiary, Nutricology