Combining Frog-Egg Enzyme and Malaria Drug Is Possible Treatment for Mesothelioma

Putting onconase together with dihydroartemisinin may be an effective treatment against mesothelioma.

The key word there is “may.” The combination of onconase and dihydroartemisinin has only been tested so far in the lab. It hasn’t yet been tried on mesothelioma patients.

Even so, researchers in China are all smiles about what they’ve seen onconase and dihydroartemisinin do to mesothelioma in test tubes and in lab mice.

The researchers shared their findings in an online issue of the journal Acta Biochimica et Biophysica Sinica. They wrote that onconase and dihydroartemisinin in combination slows the growth of mesothelioma cells.

One way onconase and dihydroartemisinin slow mesothelioma is by making it much harder for tumors to create blood vessels.

Mesothelioma tumors feed off the blood that flows through those vessels. The more they feed, the bigger they get. The bigger they get, the more they can spread within you.

So it makes a lot sense to starve mesothelioma tumors by taking away their food supply, the researchers indicated.

Using Onconase and Dihydroartemisinin Together Has Stronger Effect on Mesothelioma

Onconase is an enzyme that comes from the unfertilized eggs of leopard frogs. Somewhere along the line it was noticed that onconase can be toxic to certain types of cells, including mesothelioma cells.

That’s why onconase is used as a mesothelioma therapy in some clinics around the world.

Meanwhile, dihydroartemisinin is a drug for treating malaria. Malaria is a disease that usually involves a terrible fever and weakness. Untreated it can put you in a coma or cause you to die.

You get malaria from the bite of a mosquito that’s carrying a certain type of parasite in its saliva. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes are most common in the regions along the equator.

Just like with onconase, it was noticed by scientists that dihydroartemisinin could affect mesothelioma tumors.

Researchers from China’s Tongji University and the Shanghai Research Center for Model Organisms wondered what would happen if they attacked mesothelioma with a combination of onconase and dihydroartemisinin.

Would there be an increase in effectiveness against mesothelioma? Or would using the two together not make a difference.

The answer is the two agents work better together against mesothelioma. In fact, the researchers described there being a synergy as a result of combining the two.

Synergy means the two parts create an effect greater than what you would expect to get by simply adding them together. Here, synergy was seen whether onconase and dihydroartemisinin were used in the test tube or in lab mice.

In the mice part of the study, the researchers gave some of them onconase alone. They reported that it had a modest effect against the mesothelioma cells that had been grafted into the mice.

They gave other mice dihydroartemisinin alone. It, too, had a modest effect.

But then they gave yet another group of mice both onconase and dihydroartemisinin. There was a big difference in how the mesothelioma cells reacted.

New Drug Combination Slows Spread of Mesothelioma Cells

One effect of the onconase and dihydroartemisinin combination was a slower spread of mesothelioma cells inside those test mice. Another effect was thinner and more delicate blood vessels.

As for bad side effects, there really weren’t any, the researchers said.

At the end of it all, the researchers came away thinking that this combination had the potential to become a novel treatment for mesothelioma.

Much more research and testing are needed before that becomes a reality. But the work by this team from China is a good first step in that direction.

The title of the article is “Combination of Onconase and Dihydroartemisinin Synergistically Suppresses Growth and Angiogenesis of Non–Small-Cell Lung Carcinoma and Malignant Mesothelioma.”