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Vitamin-Drug Combo May Help Treat Mesothelioma

mesothelioma treatmentRecently, I learned about a team of researchers in Italy who are working on a new combination treatment that brings together vitamin C, the chemotherapy agent gemcitabine and EGCG, which is an antioxidant found in green tea.

On the surface of it, this may sound like a strange approach to treating mesothelioma. However, the paper, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests researchers found promising results.

Looking at the individual components
Before we get into the details of what the scientists did in the laboratory, it may help first to understand what components they were working with.

First, there’s the use of antioxidants. These are nutrients that help stabilize the destructive forces of free radicals, which are molecules that degrade the cells in your body, drive the aging process and increase the risk of cancer. Free radicals come from all over the environment: air pollution, ultraviolet radiation, unhealthy food – even the simple act of food metabolism in the body creates free radicals. However, antioxidants help neutralize the effects of free radicals.

Vitamin C, which is also known as ascorbate or ascorbic acid, is a popular example of an antioxidant. You consume this nutrient every time you eat any of a large variety of fruits and vegetables.

Green tea also has antioxidants, including EGCG, which belongs to a class of plant molecules known as polyphenols.

Usually, in the context of cancer care, antioxidants are discussed as a preventive measure. However, previous studies convinced the scientists from Italy that vitamin C and EGCG may actually be able to act directly against tumor cells. For their study, the researchers combined these two antioxidants with the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine. This medication interferes with cancer cells’ ability to replicate the DNA that they need to reproduce and grow, thereby curbing the growth of malignancies. Currently, doctors prescribe gemcitabine for diseases such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

Researchers test-drive their drug-antioxidant combo
The researchers’ goal for this study was to find a possible new treatment for mesothelioma, a disease that currently has no cure. In the laboratory, they combined vitamin C, EGCG and gemcitabine. They referred to this mixture as Active Nutrients/Drug, or AND. In order to test the effects of AND, the scientists created both cell models and rodent models of mesothelioma.

In the cell model, they observed that the individual components of AND seemed to work in a synergistic manner, with each active ingredient enhancing the effects of the others, causing the diseased cells to die.

In the mouse model, the researchers found that AND reduced the size of the animals’ tumors, decreased the number and size of metastases, and prevented abdominal bleeding.

“Here we show that a triple combined treatment based on EGCG, ascorbate and gemcitabine (AND therapy) reduces mesothelioma growth and metastasization,” the researchers wrote in PLOS ONE. “Due to the lack of side effects, we propose that this combined therapy should be evaluated in other preclinical and clinical models.”

Because this experiment was conducted using cell and animal models, it may be years before scientists evaluate the performance of AND in human clinical trials. Still, this study is important because it provides the foundation for a potential new way to tackle mesothelioma.

We at Kazan Law look forward to the future direction of this work.

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