A compound derived from the leaves of olive trees may offer a new way to treat malignant mesothelioma, a deadly lung-related cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
Right now, there is no cure for mesothelioma, although many different treatment possibilities are being investigated around the globe.
One of them is oleuropein, a compound found in the olive leaf. Scientists in Italy believe that oleuropein may disrupt the ability of mesothelioma cells to perform basic functions necessary for life and growth.
What is Oleuropein?
Oleuropein is a phenylethanoid that is found in the leaves of olive trees and is what gives olive oil its bitter taste. It is also one of the main natural oils found in argan oil.
Although oleuropein has been found to have antioxidant effects in the laboratory, up to this point there has been no proof that it could have pharmacological benefits in people.
Olive Leaf Compound and Mesothelioma
To test whether the olive leaf compound could help improve mesothelioma survival, Italian scientists obtained a concentrated sampled of oleuropein and applied it to mesothelioma cells in the lab.
The group was especially interested in what effect oleuropein would have on calcium dynamics, a method by which mesothelioma cells use calcium ions as intracellular messengers.
These intracellular messengers relay information inside mesothelioma cells that regulates activity such as growth and proliferation.
Mesothelioma Treatment with Oleuropein
Scientists found that both the enriched oleuropein and oleuropein at the standard concentration had a “significant antiproliferative effect” on mesothelioma cell samples.
By inhibiting certain kinds of calcium activity, oleuropein kept mesothelioma cells from growing, suggesting that it could form the basis of a new kind of mesothelioma treatment.
“Data suggest that our oleuropein-enriched fraction from olive leaf extract could have pharmacological application in malignant mesothelioma anticancer therapy,” writes study author Carla Marchetti of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche in Genova.
The study was published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Marchetti, C, et al, “Oleuropein-Enriched Olive Leaf Extract Affects Calcium Dynamics and Impairs Viability of Malignant Mesothelioma Cells”, 2015, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Epub ahead of print