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Can Supplements Help Mesothelioma Patients?

Chemotherapy, a standard treatment for cancers of all types, involves stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells through the use of powerful, specialized drugs. Though the treatment is highly effective, it also has its drawbacks. Most notably, chemotherapy drugs are not selective. In the process of pursuing cancer cells, they also attack healthy cells, leaving cancer patients in a weakened state. Physicians have long sought ways to counter these side effects, and one of the most popular methods of doing so has been the use of supplements to strengthen the body. Now a study has shown that the use of some of these supplements may be to no avail.

A group of researchers from the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton, United Kingdom, set out to determine whether Vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements provided in an effort to ward off neutropenia are actually doing any good. Neutropenia is a condition marked by a drop in the number of white blood cells. Patients afflicted with the condition are more vulnerable to infection, and studies have linked the condition to the use of pemetrexed, a powerful chemotherapy agent frequently used in the treatment of mesothelioma patients. The scientists studied lung cancer and mesothelioma patients who were on a regimen of pemetrexed, giving some B12 and folic acid supplementation and not providing it to others. Then they checked to see whether the supplementation or lack of it had an impact on the occurrence of neutropenia.

Their study revealed that there was no substantive difference between the two groups of patients in terms of the incidence of the condition, or in the 30-day survival rates between the two groups. According to Dr. Mary O’Brien, one of the study’s authors, “The addition of vitamin B12 and folic acid to platinum-containing regimens did not overall improve the toxicity, quality of life or overall survival.” In fact, they found that nearly three out of four patients were diagnosed with neutropenia despite having been given the supplement. Rather than viewing this as a reason to discontinue the use of supplements, the group is now going to investigate how to make them more effective so that they can offer relief to patients being treated for dangerous and aggressive cancers such as mesothelioma.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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