A future cancer treatment may have emerged with the recent discovery that bromelain, a pineapple extract, can improve the effectiveness of cisplatin
chemotherapy on peritoneal mesothelioma tumor cells.
Bromelain is an enzyme found in the stem and the juice of a pineapple. It has been part of the natural, alternative medicine culture for many years, dating back centuries in Central and South
The pineapple enzyme may be close to moving into the realm of more conventional medicine in a very significant way, thanks to recent, groundbreaking
research at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
“This is a treatment combination that is really dramatic, and likely to alter the efficacy of chemotherapy in many types of cancer,” Professor David
Morris, UNSW Department of Surgery, told Asbestos.com. “It has been exciting to see.”
Searching for Answers
The lack of effective treatment options for all types of mesothelioma continues to frustrate medical professionals trying to treat the rare, but aggressive
cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.
Standard treatment today includes a chemotherapy regimen that typically involves cisplatin or pemetrexed, although it comes with difficult side effects and
works inconsistently. The majority of mesothelioma patients live less than 18 months after diagnosis, even with the best care.
Bromelain might change that prognosis in the future.
Although previous studies have shown that bromelain can suppress breast and pancreatic cancer cells, this was the first one published on its ability to
enhance cisplatin therapy with mesothelioma cells.
Morris believes the laboratory findings were so significant that they quickly will move into the clinical trial phase. Animal safety testing already has been done.
“If it’s not within the next year, I’ll be very disappointed,” he said.
He also expressed the desire to study the effect on pleural mesothelioma – the more prevalent, more difficult type to treat. Pleural involves the thin
lining around the lungs. Peritoneal involves the abdominal cavity.
“Whether we can get the same results in the chest, for pleural mesothelioma, is clearly one of the really big unanswered questions at the moment,” Morris
said. “It’s something we plan to pursue.”
Bromelain Combination Should Prevent Spread of Cancer
The research focused on the ability of the bromelain enzyme to break down the protein MUC-1 in mesothelioma cell lines through a chemical decomposition
process. The MUC-1 protein is what helps the cancer cells metastasize and allows it to resist the toxicity of chemotherapy.
The cell lines were treated with various concentrations of bromelain with cisplatin and assessed after both four and 72 hours. Bromelain also was used with
5-fluorouracil (5-FU), another treatment drug. The Bromelain did little to help the 5-FU, but it
significantly increased the toxicity of the cisplatin on the tumor cells.
Although it still lacks definitive, scientific evidence, bromelain has been used for years as a natural anti-inflammatory. Researchers recently have been
uncovering several cancer-killing mechanisms within the enzyme, and clinical trials in Europe involving breast and colon cancer patients have met mixed
The website for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York has information on
bromelain within its Integrative Medicine section. Among the “purported uses,” are treating arthritis, treating burns of the skin, preventing and treating
cancer, treating circulatory disorders and reducing swelling and edema.
Under each purported use is a disclaimer stating either that clinical trials have not been done, or that there has not been official confirmation of its
Bromelain currently is regulated by the FDA as a dietary supplement. It may be on the verge of becoming significantly more important.
“Quite remarkably, we just don’t have good chemotherapy drugs now for mesothelioma,” Morris said. “It is likely this will at least get us a second-line
drug. I’ll be disappointed if this doesn’t turn out much better than that.”