Mesothelioma is difficult to treat for a number of reasons. The long latency period before initial diagnosis means that the cancer is typically in advanced stages by the time it is discovered. A built-up resistance to common cancer treatments also makes it difficult for treatment to have a positive effect on cancer victims. This contributes to scientists continually researching different variables to stay head of the disease. Chemotherapy treatments can be effective on cancer cells, but can also negatively affect healthy cells, sending the cancer victim into a downward spiral. Scientists are hopeful that in taking a more natural approach to fighting cancer, there will be a higher rate of survival, particularly in those who have mesothelioma.
Caribbean Sea Cucumbers
Researchers from the Comprehensive Cancer Center of MedUni Vienna have cited that the chemical known as trabectedin might hold the key to fighting mesothelioma. Trabectedin is not a new discovery, as the chemical native to the Caribbean Sea Cucumber is known as an anti-tumor drug used for soft tissue sarcomas and ovarian cancer. The latest research and testing published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics found trabectedin to be effective when fighting pleural mesothelioma when used in combination with other treatments.
Trabectedin, when used in combination with cisplatin, a common chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma, was found to be effective against cancer cells without being overly harmful to healthy pleural cells. Scientists and researchers are attempting to continually develop combination therapies with trabectedin to attach the protein bcl-2; a protein known to prevent cell death, making it possible for cancer cells to exist.
The UT Southwestern Medical Center discovered a chemical from another naturally occurring substance for cancer treatments in the long pepper – a spicy pepper plant native to India. The key chemical component found is called Piperlongumine (PL) and has shown to have a positive response when tested with cancers such as lung, colon, breast, prostate, leukemia, lymphoma, and gastric cancer.
When the pepper is ingested, the chemical PL is then broken down to hPL, which affects the GSTP1 gene.This is important because the GSTP1 gene is generally found in copious amounts in tumors and produces a detoxification enzyme. Chili peppers contain the compound Capsaicin that has already been proved to stop growth in some cancer cells; most notably breast cancer. Breast cancer is an aggressive cancer much like mesothelioma, so treatments that have had a positive effect on breast cancer victims gives hope to those suffering from mesothelioma. The scientists and researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center hope to create a more potent PL that can be used in multiple cancer therapies.
Even though the research is new and novel, medicinal purposes of the long pepper plant date back thousands of years and was even mentioned by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. This proves that revisiting theories dating back to the past, no matter how long, can still result in new treatments and therapies as we are continually learning how certain chemicals interact with one another.
National Cancer Institute, “FDA Approves Trabectedin to Treat Two Types of Soft Tissue Sarcoma,” (December 4, 2015). [Link]
Medical News Today, “Active Agent From Caribbean Sea Cucumber Could Improve Treatment for Malignant Plural Mesothelioma,” (October 25, 2016). [Link]
UT Southwestern Medical Center, “Researchers Uncover Mechanism for Cancer-Killing Properties of Pepper Plant,” EurekAlert! American Association for the Advancement of Science (January 3, 2017). [Link]
Ana Sandiou, “Chili Pepper Compound Can Stop Breast Cancer, Study Finds,” Medical News Today (January 2, 2017) [Link]
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