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Antioxidant Supplements for Mesothelioma Patients Might be Dangerous

antioxidant supplements for mesothelioma patients

Two separate lung cancer studies suggest that antioxidant supplements for mesothelioma patients may not be advisable. 

The studies appear in the most recent issue of the medical journal Cell

Both focus on the role of antioxidants in the growth and spread of lung cancer. Although mesothelioma is not the same as lung cancer, it affects the same area of the body and shares many of the same characteristics. 

The new research suggests that, instead of fighting cancer, antioxidant supplements for mesothelioma patients, might actually help it grow. 

Supplements for Cancer Patients

Antioxidant vitamins like A, C, and E are plentiful in fruits and vegetables. Many people take antioxidant supplements to make up for a poor diet. These vitamins can help protect the body from the damaging effects of “free radicals”. Free radicals are produced when the body is under stress from disease or environment. 

Cancer patients like those with pleural mesothelioma may take supplements to make up for nutrients they are not getting because they do not feel like eating. Both the cancer and the treatment can deplete the body, just when it needs to be strong. 

But the new studies suggest that higher levels of antioxidants are not a good idea for everyone. Antioxidant supplements for mesothelioma patients could do more harm than good. 

Antioxidant Supplements for Mesothelioma: What is the Connection?

Free radicals damage cells. Cancer cells produce – and get exposed to – a lot of free radicals because they are burning so much glucose. That high metabolism is what makes cancer cells show up on PET scans. 

But mesothelioma cells and other types of cancer cells can protect themselves from free radicals with antioxidants. The studies show cancer cells can either take antioxidants from the diet or they can make them. About thirty percent of lung cancer cells are capable of making their own antioxidants. 

Antioxidant supplements for mesothelioma patients may allow a protein called BACH1 to accumulate in the cancer cells. BACH1 is one of the signals that appears to tell cancer cells to spread.

“We now have important new information on lung cancer metastasis, making it possible for us to develop new treatments, such as ones based on inhibiting BACH1,” Swedish study author Martin Bergo, professor of Biosciences and Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet, said in a statement. 

In 2014, Bergo and his team suggested that Vitamin E supplements could fuel cancer growth. This new study takes the findings further to show how it might happen.

Michele Pagano, MD, is the senior author of a similar NYU School of Medicine Study. She and her team plan to study how the information could be used to help prevent lung cancer spread.

In the meantime, the safety of antioxidant supplements for mesothelioma patients and those with other types of cancer remains unclear.

Wiel, C, et al, “BACH1 Stabilization by Antioxidants Stimulates Lung Cancer Metastasis”, June 27, 2019, Cell, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2019.06.005

Lignitto, L, et al, “Nrf2 Activation Promotes Lung Cancer Metastasis by Inhibiting the Degradation of Bach1”, June 27, 2019, Cell, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2019.06.003

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