There is new evidence that a compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage may enhance the anticancer benefits of the platinum-based drug cisplatin in the treatment of pleural mesothelioma.
Although malignant mesothelioma is highly resistant to conventional cancer treatments, most mesothelioma patients will receive chemotherapy with cisplatin and pemetrexed (Alimta) as part of a multi-modal approach to treatment.
Now, researchers Yoon-Jin and Sang-Han Lee of Korea’s Soonchunhyang University say the isothiocyanate compound sulforaphane could help cisplatin kill more mesothelioma cells with minimal side effects.
The Power of Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, and cauliflower are rich in anti-cancer compounds. Sulforaphane is an organosulfur compound produced when the plant is damaged, such as from chewing.
To test its potential value in the treatment of mesothelioma, the research team exposed a sample of human pleural mesothelioma cells to a mixture of sulforaphane and cisplatin.
“Combination treatment with the two compounds exhibited synergistic growth‑inhibiting and apoptosis‑promoting [cell death] activities, as demonstrated by a series of proapoptotic events,” write the researchers in the journal Molecular Medicine Reports.
The study utilized a concentration of sulforaphane already shown to have limited toxicity in healthy cells.
Synergistic Impact on Mesothelioma Cells
The combination of sulforaphane and cisplatin triggered a cascade of reactions inside the treated mesothelioma cells. Reactive oxygen species, a byproduct of cellular stress, began to accumulate, the membranes around the energy-producing mitochondria became weak, and the nuclei of many cells became fragmented.
But cancer cells are tenacious and mesothelioma cells are no exception. One mechanism through which they protect themselves against cancer-fighting drugs is autophagy. During autophagy, certain cellular organelles degrade and are broken down so their components can be reused in new cancer cells.
When the researchers used another compound to artificially stifle autophagy, the mesothelioma-killing power of the sulforaphane/cisplatin treatment combination increased.
“The results of the present study provide a rationale for targeting cytoprotective autophagy as a potential therapeutic strategy for malignant mesothelioma,” concludes the report.
Although the study utilized a compound found in cruciferous vegetables, it does not suggest that consuming these vegetables will have the same effect. Mesothelioma patients should work closely with their doctor or dietary consultant to ensure that they are eating a diet that will best support their body through the stress of cancer treatment.
Lee, YJ and Lee, SH, “Pro-oxidant activity of sulforaphane and cisplatin potentiates apoptosis and simultaneously promotes autophagy in malignant mesothelioma cells”, June 15, 2017, Molecular Medicine Reports, Epub ahead of print