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SQAP Used Alongside Radiation to Treat Mesothelioma

Published: November 12, 2021

A chemical that makes cancer cells more sensitive to radiation could potentially help patients with mesothelioma. Radiotherapy utilizes ionizing radiation to damage the DNA of cancer cells, which affects their ability to reproduce and form tumors. Radiation is not always used for mesothelioma patients because mesothelioma cells can be immune to radiation and it can damage healthy cells. Researchers in Japan tested a compound called SQAP to determine if it can make cancer cells more susceptible to radiation. The researchers hope the treatment could help patients with pleural mesothelioma.

Pleural mesothelioma is a very hard cancer to treat because it is resistant to multiple types of therapies. After diagnosis, most patients only live up to a year because the cancer is so aggressive. It is hard to treat mesothelioma tumors with radiation because they are flat and irregularly shaped. The radiation has to be very focused on the mesothelioma tumors or else the surrounding organs can absorb a large portion of it, causing serious side effects. Radiotherapy is primarily used on pleural mesothelioma patients to shrink their tumors before surgery. It can also be used after other types of treatments to ensure tumors do not grow back.

The researchers in Japan used a compound called α-sulfoquinovosyl-acylpropanediol (SQAP) to make mesothelioma tumors more sensitive to radiation. The compound is considered a radiosensitizer, making it perfect for the use alongside radiation. It has been shown to be effective in lung and prostate cancer to enhance the effect of y-radiation. Research took place at Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Two types of mesothelioma cells were injected onto the thoracic cavities and under the skin on the backs of mice. The mice were then given 2 mg/kg SQAP intravenously with and without irradiation with a total body dose of 8 Gy.

When compared with the control group, the cells treated with radiotherapy and SQAP showed improvement. The researchers used immunostaining on the cells, which showed decreased cell proliferation, increased apoptosis, and normalization of tumor blood vessels in the SQAP and radiation group. The treatment also made the tumor bring in more oxygen, which has the accidental and beneficial consequence of making the tumors more susceptible to radiation. New discoveries and treatments for mesothelioma like this help patients live longer lives. The treatment has not been tested on people yet, but when this is possible, there is a good chance that patients with mesothelioma will be able to live better lives.

Eiko Inamasu et al., “Anticancer agent α-sulfoquinovosyl-acylpropanediol enhances the radiosensitivity of human malignant mesothelioma in nude mouse models” Journal of Radiation Research (November 5, 2021). [Link]
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