Mesothelioma Chemo Side Effect Tamed by B12 and Folic Acid

Scientists have confirmed that vitamin B12 supplements reduce the toxicity of mesothelioma chemotherapy.

These same scientists also say vitamin B12 supplementation could someday help predict whether or not a mesothelioma patient slated to undergo platinum-based chemotherapy will experience treatment-induced neutropenia.

The scientists are from Britain’s Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton and they talked about these findings in the online edition of BMJ Open Respiratory Research.

They tested vitamin B12 and folate in mesothelioma patients set to receive non-pemetrexed platinum-based chemotherapy regimens — the patients would be taking cisplatin.

Mesothelioma Chemotherapy Aid

The aim was to see if vitamin B12 supplements combined with folate could decrease treatment-related toxicity.

To arrive at the answer, they studied 83 patients. Not all had mesothelioma — some had conventional lung cancer. Regardless of the cancer they had, all were randomly picked to get vitamin B12 plus folic acid or else nothing at all to go with the chemotherapy.

The scientists evaluated study participants for quality of life and overall survival. Also examined and noted was the relationship between baseline and post-supplementation homocysteine levels and toxicity.

By the close of the study, the scientists were ready to declare that mesothelioma patients who received vitamin B12 and folic acid supplementation experienced less neutropenic toxicity than did the other participants.

However, there was disappointment as well. The researchers found that vitamin B12 supplements did not significantly increase overall survival.

For both the vitamin B12 takers and non-takers, median survival was 12.3 months after chemotherapy. The researchers hoped the vitamin B12 takers would live longer than that.

Another disappointment was that there was no significant difference between the two patient groups when it came to homocysteine level.

Homocysteine level is important because it conveys something about the vitamin B12 presence in your body. The higher the homocysteine level, the lower the vitamin B12 and folate level.

Mesothelioma Diet Problems

Mesothelioma fighters have long advocated supplementing the diets of mesothelioma patients with vitamins such as B12 to counteract the effects of malnourishment that typically afflict those in the later stages of the disease.

Malnourishment in mesothelioma patients occurs for a number of reasons. Cancer-induced nausea is one of them. Chemotherapy-induced nausea is another.

Earlier research has noted that use of vitamin B12 and folic acid can decrease toxicity for chemotherapy patients. The Royal Marsden Hospital researchers wanted to expand their understanding of this phenomenon.

In particular, they reported being intrigued by previous studies that showed homocysteine levels might not only be useful as a gauge for correct dosing with vitamin B12 and folate, but also as a biomarker to help predict neutropenia toxicity.

The idea is that if you don’t have much vitamin B12 and folate in your body, your homocysteine level will be high. Therefore, if you don’t have much vitamin B12 and folate, you may experience worse neutropenia.

The name of the published study is “An unblinded, randomised phase II study of platinum-based chemotherapy with vitamin B12 and folic acid supplementation in the treatment of lung cancer with plasma homocysteine blood levels as a biomarker of severe neutropenic toxicity.”