From the blog

Halofuginone Could Soon be Used to Treat Mesothelioma

Published: June 4, 2020

Mesothelioma is a devastating cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs and abdomen. Once exposed to asbestos, it can take years to develop and after being diagnosed, there are not many options for patients. Since there is not a cure, clinical trials can give people hope and can potentially help extend their lives.  Clinical trials can also find new and effective therapies and treatments that would not be found otherwise. Without past clinical trials, the length of time people live once diagnosed with mesothelioma would not be as long as it is now.

The main treatment for mesothelioma is chemotherapy, but it is not very effective. It can extend people’s lives, but it cannot save them or cure their cancer. It is also very hard on the human body, so it can make life miserable for people just trying to make their lives better. Once chemotherapy stops working, people then move to other treatments, but these are also not very promising. This is why clinical trials are so important. If they are continually performed, new treatments would not be found, and people with mesothelioma and other cancers would not be able to live longer, high quality lives.

The man-made version of a compound found in a traditional Chinese herb is showing positive results for patients struggling with mesothelioma. It could potentially be an alternative treatment and could make patients’ lives easier. The study in question occurred in Turkey and showed that the drug halofuginone has anticancer effects. Halofuginone is closely related to the alkaloid febrifugine, which occurs in the Chinese herb Dichroa febrifuga. Halofuginone has been observed to have very beneficial biological processes that negatively affect malaria, cancer, fibrosis, and autoimmune diseases. The Turkish study specifically looked at the effect the compound has on mesothelioma cells. They wanted to see if the compound caused mesothelioma cell death or limited the growth of mesothelioma cells. If it does either, it can possibly be an effective mesothelioma treatment.

Halofuginone was tested on both mesothelioma and lung cancer patients. The drug is able to interrupt the cell cycle by interfering with signaling proteins. This causes cancer cells to die much faster compared to no treatment. It is also not as harmful for normal cells, making it a safe treatment for patients. It has shown effectiveness, so it could be a potential treatment, but since it is based on Chinese herbs it still needs to be thoroughly studied to make sure it is safe and effective for mesothelioma patients.

Asuman Demiroglu‐Zergeroglu et al., “Anticarcinogenic effects of halofuginone on lung‐derived cancer cells” Cell Biology International (May 21, 2020). [Link]
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