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Experimental Treatment Targets Pleural Mesothelioma with Compound in Red Wine

wine_toastThe question of how to make chemotherapy more effective in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma is one that has plagued cancer researchers for years. Now, a group of Korean doctors believe they may be closer to an answer.

Scientists at Soonchunhyang University in Cheonan, Korea were the first to study the mesothelioma-fighting power of a chemical in red wine called resveratrol back in 2012 and have continued to study the compound in various combinations ever since.

In their latest study, the team combined resveratrol with the platinum-based chemotherapy drug, cisplatin. The result was a powerful synergistic effect that successfully destroyed pleural mesothelioma cells in the lab and could be good news for mesothelioma patients.

A History of Resveratrol and Mesothelioma

Resveratrol is a polyphenol derived from the skin of red grapes and found in red wine and grape juice. In 2013, the Soonchunhyang University team demonstrated its ability to help fight malignant pleural mesothelioma by making tumor cells more susceptible to the toxic effects of clofarabine, a prescription drug used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children.

That study came shortly after their 2012 research which found that lab mice exposed to 20 mg/kg of resveratrol daily for 4 weeks experienced suppressed tumor growth and increased mesothelioma survival.

In the newest report in Food and Chemical Toxicology, lead investigator Yoon-Jin Lee and colleagues demonstrated that delivering resveratrol along with cisplatin, one of the most popular drugs used to treat mesothelioma, was even better at killing these resistant cancer cells.

“The combination treatment of cisplatin and resveratrol synergistically induced apoptosis [natural cell death], as evidenced by typical cell morphological changes,” writes Dr. Lee.

The Power and Limits of Resveratrol in Mesothelioma Treatment

Although cisplatin and resveratrol did induce apoptosis in many of the pleural mesothelioma cells tested, one mesothelioma cell line was more resistant. In these mesothelioma cells, instead of causing apoptosis, the treatment appeared to trigger self-defensive autophagy, a natural process of breaking down cells into their component parts in order to make new cells.

Researchers got around this problem by treating these mesothelioma tumor cells with bafilomycin A1, an antibiotic known to inhibit autophagy. The solution made even these resistant mesothelioma cells more susceptible to the resveratrol treatment combination.The team concludes that the treatment might best be delivered along with a drug to prevent autophagy.

Although the news about resveratrol continues to look hopeful, combating mesothelioma is not as simple as increasing consumption of red wine, in part because resveratrol works differently when it enters the body via the digestive system. Before consuming wine or resveratrol to help manage mesothelioma or any other disease, patients should speak with a licensed healthcare provider.


Lee, YJ, et al, “Cisplatin and resveratrol induce apoptosis and autophagy following oxidative stress in malignant mesothelioma cells”, August 31, 2016, Food and Chemical Toxicology, Epub ahead of print,

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