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Can Nutrition Play A Role in Stopping Malignant Mesothelioma?

Physicians have always encouraged patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma to eat a healthy diet. Now some researchers are moving beyond that most basic premise to determine whether adjustments to the nutrients that a patient takes in can play an important role in stopping or slowing the growth of the fatal disease.  The theory, which is attracting increased attention among cancer scientists, is based on recent findings about cancer cell metabolism.

Working to identify what mesothelioma cells need to live and grow

All cells need energy to live and grow, and that is just as true of malignant mesothelioma cells as it is for the cells that make up our muscles and bone. But cancer cells’ requirements are different from those of healthy cells, and the way that they metabolize the nutrients that they rely on to live is different too. Different types of cancer cells have different needs but all cancer cells’ needs are more expansive than those of normal cells: because they grow and spread so quickly, they need more fuel. It is this metabolism of energy that chemotherapy drugs attempt to block, often to extremely detrimental effect for patients. Doctors are now looking for a better way: they are trying to determine exactly what nutrients specific tumor cells need so that they can determine whether depriving them of their fuel turns out to be more effective than blocking its metabolism. The goal is to rob cancer of the nutrition it needs to live and grow, prolonging longevity without starving the patient.

Different cells have different nutritional needs

Scientists investigating this field say that there is no such thing as a single cancer diet, but there may be an effective mesothelioma diet, or breast cancer diet, or pancreatic cancer diet. Because cancer is a disease of metabolic pathways, researchers believe that adjusting what people eat based on their diagnosis may slow or stop their cancer’s spread.  There has been some success in these studies, with evidence that some cancer cells burn glucose at higher levels than normal cells, and that therefore cutting off their sugar can slow their ability to divide and spread. This impact was only true for specific cancer cell types though: where glucose may be the preferred fuel for one cancer, restricting a specific dietary protein may have more impact on another.

Though patients with mesothelioma and other cancers need to guard against books filled with promises of a cure based on a miracle-cure cancer diet, the new study of metabolomics tracks cancer’s metabolic pathways based on actual data that quantifies what is happening in cells.  Speaking of the science, Siddhartha Mukherjee, the Columbia University researcher and author of The Emperor of All Maladies says,  “It’s not ‘starving’ the cancer, but rather finding precise vulnerabilities that make metabolic therapies feasible.”  For now, mesothelioma patients are urged to eat as healthy a diet as they can, but in the future that diet may be adjusted in a way that prolongs life and robs their tumors of what they need to spread.

If you have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, you need access to the best information possible. For more helpful resources, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an experienced blog writer, editor, and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of expertise include health, medical research, and law.

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