Potential Mesothelioma Therapy in a Spice


The major component in the spice turmeric may help treat drug resistant pleural mesothelioma. Researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit have been studying the effects of the compound, known as curcumin, on mesothelioma cells in the laboratory and in animal subjects. Their research suggests that curcumin has the power to attack mesothelioma from several angles.

Pleural mesothelioma is an asbestos-related malignancy of the mesothelial tissue surrounding the lungs. It is aggressive and notoriously difficult to treat. The platinum-based chemotherapy drugs often used as a first-line treatment for mesothelioma may be ineffective if the patient has a strain of the disease that is resistant to them. So far, there is no proven alternative drug therapy for these patients.

Now, the Detroit research team believes curcumin may hold an answer. When tested on both human and murine mesothelioma cells in the laboratory, curcumin inhibited cell growth and promoted cellular death (apoptosis) by affecting the levels of certain key cellular proteins.

By elevating levels of the proapoptotic protein Bax, curcumin prompted cell death. At the same time, curcumin stimulated other proteins (CARP-1, XAF1, and SULF1) that are responsible for suppressing cell growth. In addition, when the team gave an oral dose of curcumin to animals that had been infected with mesothelioma, the growth of their tumors slowed down.

But curcumin’s powerful anti-mesothelioma effects did not end there. When the researchers pre-treated cells in the laboratory with curcumin, they found that the compound enhanced the effectiveness of the mesothelioma drug cisplatin. Writing in the journal Molecular Cellular Biochemistry, the researchers suggest that understanding the mechanisms by which curcumin bolsters cisplatin and kills mesothelioma cells could help lead to effective second-line therapies.

“Our studies provide a proof-of-principle rationale for further in-depth analysis of malignant pleural mesothelioma growth suppression mechanisms and their future exploitation in the effective management of resistant malignant pleural mesothelioma.”

The anti-cancer affects of curcumin are also being studied for other types of cancer.

Never self medicate. If you are interested in taking curcumin, talk to your licensed healthcare provider.


Wang, Y et al, “Curcumin suppresses growth of mesothelioma cells in vitro and in vivo, in part, by stimulating apoptosis”, May 19, 2011, Mollecular and Cellular Biochemistry, Epub ahead of print.

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