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Acetic Acid Kills Mesothelioma Cells in Experiment

Acetic Acid Can Kill Mesothelioma Cells

Japanese researchers have found that acetic acid causes the death of a variety of cancer cells, including mesothelioma cells. Based on this, they say that the application of acetic acid may be a feasible approach for the treatment of mesothelioma.

Following up on prior research that demonstrated the ability of acetic acid (the main ingredient in vinegar) to kill gastric (stomach) cancer tumors in rats when applied topically, a team lead by Susumu Okabe of the Kyoto GI Disease Research Center in Kyoto, Japan designed an experiment to “examine whether acetic acid can directly induce cancer cell death.”


The researchers did this by adding 0.5% acetic acid to petri dishes containing two mesothelioma cell lines obtained from human patients. They also added different concentrations of acetic acid, ranging from 0.01%-0.5%, to cultures of rat and human gastric cancer cell lines. Healthy cells exposed to acetic acid served as a control.

Study results showed that 5% acetic acid for 10 minutes caused marked mesothelioma cell death, while higher concentrations of acetic acid more strongly inhibited gastric cancer cell survival. In addition, the cancer cells were found to be more sensitive to acetic acid than the normal cells.

“The results of the present study, using five different cell lines, demonstrate that acetic acid promptly induces the cell death in a dose-dependent manner,” writes Okabe in an article published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. “In fact, acetic acid used at 0.5% or even at 0.1% for 10 min or even 1 min was able to induce cell death.”

Effect of Acetic Acid on Mesothelioma Cells

Acetic acid used at 0.5% was applied to two mesothelioma cell lines for 10 minutes and almost completely induced cell death of both. “We may suggest,” concludes Okabe, “using acetic acid approach for treatment of this malignancy.” The researchers further suggest that acetic acid may be used alone or together with chemotherapy to treat not only mesothelioma, but also gastric cancer and peritoneal cancer (cancer of the lining of the abdomen).

Mesothelioma tumors are resistant to chemotherapy, which may be given to patients alone, before primary treatment (neoadjuvant chemotherapy), or after primary treatment (adjuvant chemotherapy). Traditional treatment options for mesothelioma include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy drugs pemetrexed and cisplatin have been approved by the FDA for treatment of malignant mesothelioma, but new treatments are needed given the disease’s resistance to therapy and high mortality rate. Some are being tested in clinical trials, while others—such as the present study—offer new investigative potential.

Okabe and colleagues admit that that “the molecular mechanism by which acetic acid induces the cell death remains unclear” and thus, “further studies are needed to identify the cell death pathway induced by the acetic acid.”

Future studies may look at the effectiveness of acetic acid combined with chemotherapy drugs currently used to treat mesothelioma and other cancers, including cisplatin, mitomycin-C, 5-FU, leucovorin, paclitaxel, S-1, doxorubicin, and irinotecan.

The study, “Acetic acid induces cell death: An in vitro study using normal rat gastric mucosal cell line and rat and human gastric cancer and mesothelioma cell lines,” can be read here.

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