You know how bad it feels when you get sick from eating food that’s gone bad. So you’re probably happy to learn that food poisoning sickens mesothelioma cells so viciously that they die.
Mesothelioma cells don’t get food poisoning the same way you do. The cells don’t eat things that are past their shelf-life or have been left out of the refrigerator too long.
But mesothelioma cells do get food poisoning from the same bacteria responsible for giving it to you.
In this situation, the mesothelioma cells have to be force-fed the bacteria by injection. After that, the mesothelioma cells are goners.
That’s what researchers from the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Asthma, Allergy and Respiratory Research found occurs when mesothelioma cells are exposed to the very common bacteria Staphylococcus aureus.
Their remarkable discovery appears in the Aug. 14 online edition of the journal Respirology.
Mesothelioma Cells Not the First Target
The researchers did not intend initially to use Staphylococcus aureus against mesothelioma cells. What they did instead was use the bacteria to induce pleurodesis.
Pleurodesis is a technique to shrink and eliminate the space in the middle of the chest’s pleural lining. It’s in this space that pleural effusions develop.
Effusions are an excess amount of chest fluid. In asbestos exposure victims, so much fluid accumulates there that it makes it very difficult for the lungs to pull in adequate air. The idea behind pleurodesis is to reduce effusions by taking away the space where the fluids can pool up.
As it turned out, the researchers’ experiments with Staphylococcus aureus to induce pleurodesis were successful. So successful, in fact, that it made them curious to see if Staphylococcus aureus might cause mesothelioma cells to also shrink.
To their pleasant surprise, the bacteria didn’t just shrink the cancer cells. It induced their death.
Staphylococcus aureus is a class of bacteria that lives in skin, hair, noses and throats of animals and humans, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA says as many as 25 percent of people who are healthy harbor these bacteria. The trouble begins when Staphylococcus aureus sprouts up on food.
Staphylococcus aureus multiplies quickly at room temperature. As it does, it produces a toxin. It’s this toxin that makes you sick — and that causes mesothelioma cells to die.
In experimenting with Staphylococcus aureus, the researchers obtained the bacteria from a lab that produces it in massive quantities and then sells it to researchers all over the world.
According to lead researcher Sally Lansley, Ph.D., from the Lung Institute of Western Australia, the bacteria product she and her colleagues purchased “effectively kills mesothelioma cells.”
She also reports that the product did not induce interleukin-8, monocyte chemotactic protein-1, and vascular endothelial growth-factor to be released from the mesothelioma cells.
Those are compounds the mesothelioma cells would need to enlarge and spread.
However, the product did induce a release of those compounds from healthy cells, which was a good thing, Lansley notes.
Tested Against Mesothelioma in the Lab
Lansley and her team tested the bacteria against mesothelioma cells in a dish and in lab mice.
“Tumour growth was significantly inhibited in the treatment group during and after the treatment period,” they report.
The researchers also say no side effects were detected. In other words, the bacteria made only the mesothelioma cells sick, not the host.
Interestingly, the mesothelioma cells that hadn’t yet died started regrowing after the bacteria injections stopped.
The researchers say they took this to mean that the injections and the die-off were events fully connected to each other.
The team reveals that they also tested the bacteria against peritoneal mesothelioma cells and witnessed encouraging results.
“This proof-of-principle study demonstrates promising antitumoural activity of a commercially available compound of S. aureus bio-products against mesothelioma,” the researchers conclude.