Mannose, a naturally occurring sugar monomer typically found in fruits, seems to have a remarkable effect on cancerous cells, slowing them down and even enhancing the effects of chemotherapy. These findings could prove to have crucial significance, especially for aggressive forms of cancer, like mesothelioma, where the disease progresses very quickly.
“Tumours need a lot of glucose to grow, so limiting the amount they can use should slow cancer progression. The problem is that normal tissues need glucose as well, so we can’t completely remove it from the body”, noted Professor Kevin Ryan from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, University of Glasgow, lead author of the study.
This is not the first time mannose has seen medical use, the carbohydrate supplement is also applied to treat some urinary tract infections.
“In our study, we found a dosage of mannose that could block enough glucose to slow tumor growth in mice, but not so much that normal tissues were affected. This is early research, but it is hoped that finding this perfect balance means that, in the future, mannose could be given to cancer patients to enhance chemotherapy without damaging their overall health”.
Furthermore, researchers found that high levels of a certain enzyme that breaks down mannose can be a good indicator of how effective the treatment is.
“We consider that the administration of mannose could be a simple, safe and selective therapy in the treatment of cancer, and could be applicable to multiple tumor types”, concluded the article.
While mesothelioma does have a low incidence rate, it is fast spreading and particularly deadly. Delaying advancement allows for better research opportunities and also improved treatments down the line.
It is important to note that patients need to consult with their doctors before taking up mannose sugar supplementation.