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Mesothelioma treatments found in unexpected places

Several research articles recently published detail new and innovative drug solutions to fight mesothelioma. Scientists from around the world continue to develop potential solutions with Korea releasing their findings tied to a leukemia treatment and red wine.

Published in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the study found clofarabine, a drug typically used with relapsed leukemia cases in children, combined with a chemical found in the skin of a red grape helps trigger cancer cell death in patients.

One of the goals of cancer treatment is targeting the harmful cells and avoiding healthy cells, a challenging feat with mesothelioma. The Korean scientists found by combining the grape skin chemical with the leukemia drug, this specific selection may be possible.

Other studies published in 2014 provide new treatment methods pulled from other diseases. In March, a study was published proposing a drug used to treat breast cancer may decrease mesothelioma tumor growth. New evidence surfaced suggesting the enzyme aromatase is associated with malignant mesothelioma and Italian scientists began testing breast cancer drug Aromasin (exemestane) on mice and mesothelioma cells.

Designed to inhibit aromatase, Aromasin curbs cell growth in breast cancer patients by helping reduce the amount of estrogen in the body. In the mesothelioma cells and mice, the drug inhibited a glycoprotein necessary for cell migration, thus limiting the tumor growth.

Additionally, when combined with common mesothelioma treatment Alimta, the scientists observed a significant decrease in tumor size. In fact, the Aromasin/Alimta combination showed results even better than the preferred chemotherapy treatment of Alimta and cisplatin.

The beginning of April marked another significant study– a drug used to treat alcoholism has the potential to limit mesothelioma growth. Disulfiram, or Antabuse, helps patients by affecting enzymes in the body, making it difficult to stomach alcohol.

Hadassah Medical Organization completed a clinical study in 2009 and found that Disulfiram, when combined with a copper compound, serves as an anticancer drug in lung cancer patients. The drug encourages apoptosis, or programmed cell death, a necessary process cancer cells do not undergo, which limits the number of cells. Not only does it shrink the cancerous cells, Disulfiram makes the cells more responsive to chemotherapy.

Because Disulfiram is already approved for use on humans, the next appropriate step is to begin clinical trials on those diagnosed with mesothelioma. It cannot be guaranteed the results will be the same, but research shows that it’s a possibility.

Finding solutions in unexpected places allows researchers to think outside of the box and discover new ways to treat the deadly disease.

For more information about mesothelioma and recent journal articles, visit the Mesothelioma Center.


Lee, Y.J. & Lee, S.H. (2014). Resveratrol and clofarabine induces a preferential apoptosis-activating effect on malignant mesothelioma cells by Mcl-1 down-regulation and caspase-3 activation. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. [Link]