Researchers in South Korea have uncovered an unusual synergy between a chemical found in red wine and a drug used to treat childhood leukemia that has translated into a potential future treatment options for malignant mesothelioma.
The combination of resveratrol, which comes from the skin of red grapes, and the drug clofarabine, has shown an ability to make mesothelioma cells much more vulnerable to chemotherapy.
Researchers found the resveratrol/clofarabine combination prevented tumor cell proliferation and triggered programmed cell death. It also left healthy cells untouched.
“I think that our results showed therapeutic potential in overcoming chemo-resistance against malignant mesothelioma,” researcher Sang-Han Lee, biochemistry professor in the College of Medicine at Soonchunhyang University, told Asbestos.com. “We have been struggling to find effective therapeutic agents for mesothelioma. I hope our dream [of finding one] comes true sooner rather than later.”
Not So Fast Says Researcher
Lee was quick to caution against too much optimism, emphasizing the findings were in vitro, and a long way from even reaching the clinical trial stage where it can reach the actual patients who need it quickly.
“Further studies are needed,” Lee said. “A lot of drugs have been demonstrated to be effective in in vitro study, and most of them fail in preclinical animal testing for a number of reasons. We still need time and efforts for the development of an effective systemic treatment regimen.”
One of the biggest challenges with cancer treatments is finding a drug combination that avoids the healthy cells while killing the malignant cells. The ability of the resveratrol/clofarabine combination to provide a better target for the chemotherapy is what has researchers intrigued.
Clofarabine for Childhood Leukemia
Clofarabine is typically used to treat actue lymphoblastic leukemia that has recurred or resisted chemotherapy treatments with children. It is part of antimetabolites drug group that prevents cells from making RNA and DNA, halting the growth of cancer cells.
Resveratrol, which is found in both red wine and grape juice, has been studied in previous cancer research but with mixed results. South Korean researchers have shown it to be effective in suppressing tumor growth in laboratory mice. Other scientists have been skeptical.
There is little scientific proof that resveratrol works in human cancers, and it has not been FDA approved, but it is among several medicinal alternatives that some patients insist have helped them. That group of alternatives includes plant extracts, teas, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Family doctors have encouraged patients for years to drink a daily glass of red wine to help with cardiovascular health. Korean researchers previously found that drinking red wine was effective with mesothelioma cells because of its interaction with a specific protein known as Sp1.
The Synergistic Effect Works Well
The latest research revolves around another protein known as Mcl-1 and how the synergistic effect of resveratrol/clofarabine activates “caspases,” which are proteins that cause tumor cell death.
Mesothelioma, which is caused primarily by asbestos exposure, is a cancer without a definitive cure. Chemotherapy, too often, is not an effective, long-term tool in fighting it. Overcoming the resistance to chemotherapy has been a goal of researchers for many years.
And while the incidence of mesothelioma cancer has begun to show a decline in the U.S., it continues to rise in several, still-developing countries like South Korea, where asbestos products still are being used.
“We are still in the early st ages [of this research],” Lee said. “Our studies have been aimed at finding the potential roles of natural compounds for higher efficacy of chemotherapeutic regimens, and for alleviating their adverse effects. It still needs the accumulation of more valuable data for the preclinical and clinical setting.”