Using Betadine Antiseptic to Kill Mesothelioma Tumor Cells

Betadine label

Researchers in Italy are exploring the possibility of using a popular and traditional antiseptic as an alternative to chemotherapy for pleural irrigation
after surgery with the hope of better preventing mesothelioma cancer recurrence.

Early laboratory work done at the Second University of Naples has shown that Betadine brand iodine-based antiseptic, which has been used by doctors as a
presurgery hand cleaner for decades, can suppress and destroy mesothelioma tumor cells.

A study with surgical patients will begin soon to further determine the clinical benefits for mesothelioma treatment.

“It’s my dream to demonstrate the real benefit of pleural irrigation with Betadine,” Alfonso Fiorelli, M.D. Ph.D., of the Thoracic Surgery Unit at Second
University, told Asbestos.com. “This is the first time such treatment has been proposed in the multimodality
treatment of mesothelioma.”

Fiorelli, the lead researcher in a surprising laboratory study that was published recently in the European Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery, believes
Betadine can accomplish the benefits of chemotherapy without the toxicity that often
accompanies it.

Clinical Testing Using Betadine Set to Start Soon

“If our in vitro results can be collaborated by clinical results, the research may be very useful for treatment in centers where intrapleural chemotherapy
is not available,” Fiorelli said. “And conversely to chemotherapy, Betadine has a very low toxicity.”

Betadine is the brand name for povidone-iodine (PVP-I), a chemical complex that has been sold since 1955 and has remained popular for its combination of
anti-bacterial activity and low toxicity.

It also has shown promise for its growth-preventing properties in cellular models, and several recent studies have shown its ability to slow tumor
spreading after abdominal or thoracic surgeries. This was the first testing with mesothelioma
cells.

PVP-I has been popular in medical fields for many years. It is used as a surgical scrub, for both the surgeons and patients, used for pre- and
post-operative skin cleaning. It also is used commonly for prevention and treatment of infections in various wounds and abrasions. It also is available
without prescription.

Lab Tests Performed on Four Mesothelioma Cell Lines

Fiorelli’s study tested the solution on four different mesothelioma cell lines with varying strengths of the PVP-I solutions. Incubation periods with the
cells ranged from five minutes to 24 hours. The researchers found a wide range of cell death, depending upon the strength of the solution used and the time
period being tested.

In three of the four lines, mesothelioma cell death occurred within 10 minutes of incubation. Much higher concentration of the PVP-I solution was needed to
cause the cell death in the fourth line.

Mesothelioma is the rare, aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type and develops in the thin lining around
the lungs.

Surgery is the most aggressive treatment option in a multimodality approach that also includes chemotherapy and radiation, but it rarely provides a cure. The diffuse nature of mesothelioma often prevents a
surgeon from a total resection of the cancer.

In recent years, an intrathoracic chemotherapy wash before the body cavity is closed has helped significantly, but it doesn’t solve the problem completely.
The toxicity of chemotherapy can cause problems, too, and the procedure isn’t
available in many hospitals.

PVP-I can provide a much more inexpensive and easier to administer option.

“Our findings suggest that the intrapleural irrigation with PVP-I in patients with epithelial or biphasic mesothelioma undergoing cytoreductive surgery
might be applied in thoracic surgery practice to prevent the neoplastic cell growth,” the study’s authors concluded.

  1. Fiorelli, Alfonso, M.D. Ph.D., Thoracic Surgery Unit, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy, interview with Asbestos.com (Jan. 16, 2014).
  2. http://ejcts.oxfordjournals.org/search?fulltext=mesothelioma&submit=yes&x=0&y=0

Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His most recent experience is in researching and writing about asbestos litigation issues and asbestos-related conditions like mesothelioma. If you have a story idea for Tim, please email him at tpovtak@asbestos.com

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