Reducing Iron Seems to Prevent Mesothelioma in Lab Tests with Rats

Your mother told you iron was good for your health because it helped build a strong body. Your doctor may someday tell you the opposite – iron is bad because it appears to encourage the onset of mesothelioma in people who have been exposed to asbestos.

Researchers in Japan have uncovered evidence suggesting it might be helpful to those who are at risk for mesothelioma if they have less iron in their system.

But don’t rush to stop eating spinach and other sources of iron in your diet. The findings of the researchers from Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine apply only to lab rats in a carefully controlled and tightly monitored situation.

These scientists have yet to investigate the reduction of iron as a way to prevent mesothelioma in humans exposed to asbestos.

Still, it is significant that they found the elimination of iron from the systems of lab rats prevented tissue inflammation — the event that comes before the onset of mesothelioma.

Since the inflammation of tissues did not occur, neither did the mesothelioma. Again, this has only been shown to be the case in test rats.

It was also significant that the elimination of iron suppressed the growth and spread of sarcomatoid-type mesothelioma cells. Those are generally the most resistant to mesothelioma treatment.

An Ounce of Mesothelioma Prevention

These findings were reported in the journal Cancer Science. The title of the article is “Dual Preventive Benefits of Iron Elimination by Desferal in Asbestos-Induced Mesothelial Carcinogenesis.”

The researchers said they were inspired to conduct this investigation by their belief that the best way to treat mesothelioma is to make sure mesothelioma never onsets.

In other words, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Actually, prevention of mesothelioma would be worth a lot more than that because stopping mesothelioma before it starts would spare thousands each year.

In this study, the researchers administered the drug deferoxamine (brand name Desferal). It was administered to the rats in their abdominal region so the researchers could observe the drug’s effect against peritoneal inflammation.

The researchers indicated inflammation had been provoked by depositing into the rats a combination of iron and asbestos fibers. Also, the researchers promoted a release of free radicals to encourage oxidation.

Deferoxamine is a heavy metal antagonist. It works by binding to iron in the blood. This binding makes it easier to purge iron by excreting it through the kidneys and gallbladder.

Deferoxamine is ordinarily used to treat people who experience sudden iron poisoning. People who receive a number of blood transfusions also are helped by deferoxamine — the multiple transfusions can cause iron levels to climb dangerously high.

Deferoxamine also appears to be effective against excess aluminum. Some doctors use it off-label to prevent aluminum poisoning in dialysis patients.

Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Cells Suppressed

The Nagoya University researchers also used a chelating agent in their experiments. A chelating agent is anything that binds ions and molecules of one substance to ions of metal.

Here, the chelating agent used was nitrilotriacetate, which is commonly used by industry to help clean up chemically contaminated water.

The team from Nagoya University used nitrilotriacetate as a control for their study. Its role was to promote an iron-catalyzed Fenton reaction, they said.

At the end of their study, the researchers noted that the deferoxamine “significantly decreased peritoneal fibrosis, iron deposition and nuclear 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine levels in mesothelial cells.”

At the same time, they observed that nitrilotriacetate had the opposite effect. It “significantly increased all of them,” the investigators wrote.

The researchers contended that deferoxamine had effectiveness in countering asbestos-induced cytotoxicity in rat peritoneal mesothelial cells.

They also determined that it had effectiveness against sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells because those cells need more iron to proliferate than do epithelioid mesothelioma cells.

“Because inflammogenicity of a fiber is proportionally associated with subsequent mesothelial carcinogenesis, iron elimination from the mesothelial environment can confer dual merits for preventing asbestos-induced mesothelical carcinogenesis by suppressing inflammation and mesothelial proliferation simultaneously,” they wrote.