As scientists search far and wide for new ways to effectively treat mesothelioma, a promising combination seems to have emerged from the least likely of places.
A drug which has been derived from the eggs of leopard frogs has shown promising signs when administered with dihydroartemisinin, a malaria drug better known as DHA.
This comes from a Chinese report which has claimed that the combination could have anti-tumour effects on non-small cell lung cancer which hasn’t been seen in more conventional cancer drugs.
What is it?
The drug in question is called Onconase (also known as Ranpirnase) and is a cytotoxic enzyme which is found in the stem cells of the leopard frog eggs and early embryos.
It may sound strange but studies have shown that the drug can help to shrink mesothelioma tumours by attaching itself to specific receptors which are only found on the cancerous cells.
While DHA is primarily a malaria drug, it is also known to exhibit antitumour and antivirus properties.
How could it be used to treat mesothelioma?
The study was undertaken by researchers at the Tongji University in Shanghai who wanted to see if DHA could enhance the effectiveness of Onconase.
To test their hypothesis, the scientists applied the new combination to mesothelioma cells in the lab.
This resulted in a ‘synergistic effect’, which is where the two drugs have a greater effect than they would do when both used individually.
This prompted the team to move their testing onto live mice, where the combination produced a similar effect, disrupting the cancer cells’ ability to form blood vessels to feed the growing tumour (known as angiogenesis).
Dr Ruling Shen, who was part of the study said: “These results imply that the anti-angiogenesis effects may make important contributions to the in vivo antitumor effects of the Onc/DHA combination treatment.”
A potential novel treatment?
The usual approach of using chemotherapy to treat mesothelioma uses a combination of pemetrexed (Alimta) and a platinum-based drug such as cisplatin.
This is widely accepted among doctors as the best form of first-line treatment, although its effects are usually marginal and only extends patients’ survival from the disease by a few months.
This is why so much research is going into finding new forms of drug to better treat the disease and ultimately improve survival rates.
The signs from this study are certainly promising, with the report concluding that: “The Onc/DHA combination therapy may have the potential to become a novel regimen for NSCLC and mesothelioma.”
For all the latest news on trials surrounding mesothelioma treatments and drugs, make sure to keep checking our news page here at Asbestos Advice Helpline.