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Iron modulation could help mesothelioma patients, researcher says

As research continues to establish the link between iron and mesothelioma, a Japanese scientist says that controlling iron in the bodies of patients with the deadly disease could improve their prognosis.


Iron is an essential element needed by humans to transport oxygen to tissues and carbon dioxide back to the lungs. It’s also toxic — excess iron generates free radicals, increasing the risk of cancer and other diseases.


Shinya Toyokuni of the Department of Pathology and Biological Responses at Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan has been working on iron-induced carcinogenesis for more than 20 years.


In researched published two years ago, his team described experiments that involved injecting iron saccharate into the abdomens of lab rats to induce peritoneal mesothelioma. Analysis of the resulting tumors revealed that in every case but one there was deletion of CDKN2A/2B, a tumor-suppressing gene. The researchers believe the genetic alterations were triggered by oxidative stress caused by the iron overload.


The analysis also showed that there was a higher incidence of CDKN2A/2B deletion and other “chromosomal amplifications and deletions” in cases of sarcomatoid mesothelioma, the most lethal form of the disease. In most of the cases, there was also excess uromodulin, a protein that can suppress the body’s immune system.


In the experiments, Toyokuni also observed a higher frequency of CDKN2A/2B deletion in rat peritoneal mesothelioma induced by chryostile, crocidolite or amosite asbestos, which contain higher amounts of iron than other forms of the mineral.


In the current issue of Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, Toyokuni makes the case that controlling iron, through diet or therapy, could be a strategy to prevent cancer and other diseases. He noted that research in 2008 found that semiannual phlebotomies decreased cancer risk by 35 percent and decreased mortality in cancer patients with peripheral arterial disease by 60 percent.


“Throughout evolutional and developmental processes, iron has been and will continue to be necessary,” he wrote. “However, it is now apparent that iron excess is harmful and even promotes cancer. This has important implications for human longevity.”