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Preventing and Treating Mesothelioma with Phytochemicals

Italian scientists say it may one day be possible to treat or even prevent malignant mesothelioma by harnessing the powerful phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables.

Malignant mesothelioma is the most deadly of the diseases linked to asbestos exposure. There is no cure and standard cancer therapies are rarely able to stop its progression for long.

But, in a new report published in the October 2017 edition of the journal Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, doctors from the Polytechnic University of Marche in Ancona say many dietary phytochemicals impact microRNA expression which, in turn, may influence the development of mesothelioma.

MicroRNAs and Mesothelioma

A microRNA is a small non-coding molecule of RNA that plays a role in how genes are expressed by silencing certain aspects of RNA.

According to the authors of “Regulation of microRNA Using Promising Dietary Phytochemicals”, only one compound – ursolic acid found in apple peels – has been shown to regulate microRNAs in malignant mesothelioma cells.

But many others may also have the potential to do so.

“In this paper, we have introduced some dietary phytochemicals (curcumin, epigallocatechin gallate, quercetin, genistein, pterostilbene, resveratrol, capsaicin, ellagic acid, benzyl isothiocyanate, phenethyl isothiocyanate, sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol, 3,3′-diindolylmethane, diallyl disulphide, betulinic acid, and oleanolic acid) which have shown microRNA regulatory activities in various cancers and could regulate malignant mesothelioma microRNAs,” writes author Md Abu Sayeed.

Phytochemicals in Mesothelioma Research

Phytochemicals, including carotenoids, flavonoids, isoflavones, polyphenols, and others, are biologically active compounds found in plants. Although designed to help the plants themselves thrive or ward off threats, they can also have powerful protective effects in the organisms that consume them, including people.

The world’s longest-living mesothelioma survivor, Australian Paul Kraus, considers a diet high in fruits and vegetables a key part of his 20+ year survival, and there is good evidence to support the idea.

In just the past year, new studies were released on

  • The potential mesothelioma survival benefits of the flavonoid apigenin found in parsley and chamomile tea
  • The apparent ability of the broccoli compound sulforaphane to improve mesothelioma chemotherapy with cisplatin
  • The immune-boosting properties of micronutrients in red wine, tea, and leafy greens in people with mesothelioma
  • The mesothelioma tumor growth-slowing effect of the polyphenol curcumin

The authors of the new study say these same chemicals and others may combat mesothelioma by impacting microRNAs as well as by regulating the expression of various genes that may be involved in the development of mesothelioma.


Sayeed, MA, et al, “Regulation of microRNA using promising dietary phytochemicals: Possible preventive and treatment option of malignant mesothelioma”, August 21, 2017, Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, Epub ahead of print

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