Researchers have been investigating whether the sugar supplement, mannose, can slow the growth of cancers, including mesothelioma.

Mannose is a sugar monomer and is important in metabolism. It can be found naturally in some fruits and vegetables, including cranberries, oranges, apples, broccoli and green beans. It is also sold as a supplement.

A study by Cancer Research UK and Worldwide Cancer Research has tested the effect of mannose on the growth speed of tumours in mice.

How does mannose slow growth?

All body cells need sugar to grow – including cancer cells. Mannose alters the glucose and limits how much sugar the cells can use. Mesothelioma cells need more glucose than healthy cells, and so by using mannose to control the sugar, the growth can be controlled.

The study

The study used mice which had lung cancer, skin cancer or pancreatic cancer. They were given a sugar supplement through their drinking water. The results showed that, in the mice given the supplement, the tumours grew at a much slower rate. Additionally, the mice who were given the mannose supplement did not suffer any obvious side effects.

The research is in early stages but the results are encouraging, particularly for mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma tumours grow very quickly. Sadly, not all patients are able to have surgery or chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumours. Therefore, this mannose supplement could be invaluable in slowing growth and allowing mesothelioma patients to live longer and with a better quality of life.

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Source: Gonzalez, P, et al, “Mannose impairs tumour growth and enhances chemotherapy”, November 21 2018, Nature, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0729-3

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