Selenium and Mesothelioma Study Finds Mixed Results, According to Surviving Mesothelioma

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New research suggests the micronutrient may be able to slow the progression of mesothelioma, but only in certain cell lines.

Tumors able to convert increased selenium into a stronger reducing capacity actually benefit from increased selenium intake.

A new article published in the American Journal of Pathology and detailed by Surviving Mesothelioma finds that the nutrient selenium may one day have a role to play in the treatment of mesothelioma. Selenium is found in meat, fish, poultry, grains and eggs and is most plentiful in Brazil nuts and organ meats. It is essential for good health. But researchers studying its effects in mesothelioma found mixed results.

University of Hawaii molecular biologists cultured four different mesothelioma cell lines in media that contained different levels of sodium selenite (a form of selenium). The mesothelioma cells were exposed to either 30, 50, or 80 nmol/L of selenium.

Two of the mesothelioma cell lines exposed to higher levels of selenium actually began to proliferate and spread, but two other cell lines did not. When researchers compared the differences between the cell lines, they found that how efficiently mesothelioma cells coped with oxidative stress (called redox metabolism) affected their reaction to increased selenium. When the mesothelioma cells that tended to proliferate with additional selenium were treated with the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine, the effects were reversed.

Studies in live mice found similar results. Mice with mesothelioma were fed a higher-selenium diet. Those mice with the CRH5 strain of mesothelioma showed increased tumor progression with selenium, but those with AB12 mesothelioma did not. The administration of N-acetylcysteine reversed the tumor-promoting effects of selenium in the CRH5 mice. At the same time, some tumors actually shrank with the addition of selenium.

“Data suggest that the effects of dietary selenium on malignant mesothelioma tumor progression depend on the arising cancer cells’ redox metabolism,” the authors conclude, noting that “tumors able to convert increased selenium into a stronger reducing capacity actually benefit from increased selenium intake.”

Preliminary studies have found several dietary compounds that might be beneficial in mesothelioma, including the flavonoid quercetin, curcumin (a component of the spice turmeric), the pineapple enzyme bromelain, and certain antioxidant vitamins. To date, there are no dietary supplements specifically recommended for mesothelioma.

The original selenium study appears in a recent issue of the American Journal of Pathology. (Rose, AH, “Increasing Dietary Selenium Elevates Reducing Capacity and ERK Activation Associated with Accelerated Progression of Select Mesothelioma Tumors”, January 31, 2014, American Journal of Pathology, Epub ahead of print,

For nearly ten years, Surviving Mesothelioma has brought readers the most important and ground-breaking news on the causes, diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma. All Surviving Mesothelioma news is gathered and reported directly from the peer-reviewed medical literature. Written for patients and their loved ones, Surviving Mesothelioma news helps families make more informed decisions.

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Michael Ellis
Cancer Monthy
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