From the blog

Mesothelioma treatments found in unlikely places

Published: April 23, 2014

Scientists around the world work endlessly to discover new treatments for mesothelioma. Taking decades to develop, the asbestos-caused cancer leaves most with less than a year to live after diagnosis.

Many studies focus on the effectiveness of current treatments, hoping to expand current knowledge and provide victims with the best possible care and outcome. Recent research show new options found in medicines used for patients with 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.


Chen D, Cheriyan V.T., Dou Q. P., Jamal S, Muthu M, Pass H.I., Polin L.A., Rishi A.K., Sharma S, Tarca A.L., Wali A, Wang Y, Yang H. (2014). Disulfiram Suppresses Growth of the Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Cells in Part by Inducing Apoptosis. PLoS One. [Link]

Cordone I, Cortese G, Galati R, Germoni S, Masi S, Morosetti C, Nuvoli B, Santoro R. (2014). Exemestane blocks mesothelioma growth through downregulation of cAMP, pCREB and CD44 implicating new treatment option in patients affected by this disease. NCBI PubMed. [Link]

Devine, A. (2014). Drug used to treat alcoholism may suppress growth of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma Guide. [Link]

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