Unveiling a New Challenge: How Zinc Can Compromise Mesothelioma Chemotherapy

Unveiling a New Challenge: How Zinc Can Compromise Mesothelioma Chemotherapy

Researchers have discovered that zinc can make chemotherapy treatment less effective in patients with mesothelioma.

Navigating Mesothelioma Treatment

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer caused by asbestos. It grows and spreads through the lining of organs like the lungs. Mesothelioma is rare and can be hard to treat. Because of this, the outlook for people with mesothelioma is usually poor.

Doctors will typically combine therapies to treat mesothelioma. One of these treatments is chemotherapy. When a patient gets chemotherapy treatment, they are given drugs that kill cells by damaging their DNA. Currently, the only FDA-approved chemotherapy for mesothelioma is a combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin.

Cisplatin is a platinum-based drug. It damages the DNA of dividing cells and slows down the growth of cancer cells. Doctors have noticed that in some cases, cancer cells become resistant to cisplatin. This makes the treatment less effective.

The Zinc Conundrum in Chemotherapy Strategies

Researchers have been looking at a type of small protein called metallothioneins (MTs). These proteins help our bodies to manage heavy metals. They might also play a role in why some cancers resist chemotherapy treatment.

To test this, researchers from Germany and Austria wanted to see what would happen if they added zinc to cisplatin. They ran experiments in a lab to find out if adding zinc to the chemotherapy treatment drug would change how it worked.

During their experiments, the researchers checked to see if the cancer cells died, stayed alive, or changed in other ways. They found out that adding zinc made the MTs more active, which also made the cancer cells more resistant to the effects of cisplatin.

This means that consuming zinc during chemotherapy treatment can make it harder to kill the mesothelioma cancer cells. This might happen when a patient smokes cigarettes, for example. Doctors should consider this when creating treatment plans for their patients. Researchers can look for ways to make chemotherapy more effective.


Wyrich M, Ohlig H, Wessolly M, et al. Induction of metallothionein expression by supplementation of zinc induces resistance against platinum-based treatment in malignant pleural mesothelioma. Transl Cancer Res. 2023;12(8):1929-1936. doi:10.21037/tcr-22-2651. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10493783/

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