Fighting Mesothelioma with Dietary Phytochemicals

Fruits and vegetables

Researchers at a university in Ancona, Italy, are optimistic about the future role fruits and vegetables will play in slowing the progression of malignant mesothelioma.

In a study titled “Regulation of microRNA using promising dietary phytochemicals: Possible preventive and treatment option of malignant mesothelioma,” researchers at Polytechnic University of Marche looked at various phytochemicals and determined these compounds found in fruits and vegetables regulate microRNAs.

Simply put, microRNAs are small coding molecules that help regulate genes. In cancer, these molecules become dysregulated, which leads to a series of negative effects such as resisting cell death, increasing metastasis and generating more cancer cells.

Finding plant chemicals that regulate these microRNAs implies mesothelioma cells could be better controlled and easier to treat, and these chemicals could perhaps even play a role in cancer prevention.

Where to Find Cancer-Fighting Phytochemicals

The Italian study discussed several phytochemicals found in foods we eat every day, and others we can incorporate into our diet.

  • Curcumin: A powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties found in turmeric.
  • Epigallocatechin Gallate: A well-known flavonoid found in green tea.
  • Quercetin: Found particularly in citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, sage, tea and red wine. Olive oil, grapes, dark cherries, and dark berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and bilberries are also high in quercetin and other flavonoids.
  • Genistein: An isoflavone (flavonoid) found in soybeans and soy-based foods such as soy milk, tofu and edamame.
  • Pterostilbene: An antioxidant found primarily in blueberries.
  • Resveratrol: A flavonoid found in red grapes, eucalyptus, blueberries, mulberries and peanuts. Red wine is particularly high in resveratrol because the grape juice ferments with the grape skins.
  • Capsaicin: A compound found in chili peppers.
  • Ellagic Acid: A chemical found in red fruits and berries. Raspberries are particularly high in ellagic acid, but it’s also found in strawberries, blackberries, cranberries and pomegranate.
  • Isothiocyanates: Compounds such as benzyl isothiocyanate and sulforaphane are found in cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale.
  • Phenethyl Isothiocyanate: Another Isothiocyanate especially rich in watercress.
  • Indole-3-carbinol: This phytochemical is also found in many cruciferous vegetables, but the enzymes are only activated during cooking.
  • 3,3′-Diindolylmethane: A compound derived from digesting Indole-3-carbinols.
  • Diallyl Disulfide: A compound found in garlic.

Ursolic acid was not researched in the study but was previously referenced as one of the only phytochemicals found to regulate microRNAs. It is found primarily in apple peels.

Further research is needed, but it is promising to know increasing our intake of plant-based foods can help us protect ourselves against mesothelioma and other types of cancer.

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Registered & Licensed Dietitian

Tejal Parekh is a registered and licensed dietitian in Florida with a master’s in nutrition and dietetics from Georgia State University. She realized her passion more than 10 years ago when she started working with cancer patients. Tejal also is one of the first dietitians in Florida to be board-certified as a specialist in oncology nutrition.

11 Cited Article Sources

The sources on all content featured in The Mesothelioma Center at include medical and scientific studies, peer-reviewed studies and other research documents from reputable organizations.

  1. Peng, Y. & Croce, C. (2017, December 4). The role of microRNA’s in human cancer.
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  2. Sayeed, M. et al. (2017, December 11). Regulation of microRNA using promising dietary phytochemicals: Possible preventive and treatment option of malignant mesothelioma.
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  3. Science Direct. (2014). Epigallocatechin gallate.
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  4. Science Direct. (2015). Quercetin.
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  5. Science Direct. (2011). Genistein.
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  6. Food and Chemical Toxicology. (2016, August 31). Cisplatin and resveratrol induce apoptosis and autophagy following oxidative stress in malignant mesothelioma cells.
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  7. Dr. Axe. (n.d.). Capsaicin Brings the Heat as a Disease-Fighting Powerhouse.
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  8. Science Direct. (2015). Genistein.
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  9. Science Direct. (2010). Phenethyl Isothiocyanate.
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  10. Epigenetic Cancer Therapy. (2015, July 3). Chapter 18 — Nutritional Epigenetic Regulators in the Field of Cancer: New Avenues for Chemopreventive Approaches.
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  11. Science Direct. (2010). Diallyl disulfide. Retrieved from:

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