New Study Identifies Molecular Profiles that Could Lead to a More Effective Treatment of Deadly Mesothelioma

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view of molecular profiles under a microscope

Because of its rarity in comparison to other cancers, scientific researchers have long understudied the fatal cancer mesothelioma.

For those 3,000 Americans diagnosed with it each year, it certainly does not feel so rare. Most patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma die within only two years of learning they have the disease, which is caused by exposure to lethal asbestos fibers.

A new study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published in the journal EBioMedicine offers hope to future sufferers of the incurable disease.

Molecular Study Reveals New Findings

The scientists conducting the study identified three sets of tumors with characteristic molecular features.

Discovering the differing molecular profiles of each of the tumors has the potential to provide the information needed to more effectively treat mesothelioma. It may also help improve the understanding of the carcinogenic processes that contribute to this lethal condition.

“Innovative sequencing technologies that provide information on the molecular characteristics of tumors can now uncover differences among tumors that look quite similar under the microscope,” said Dr. Matthieu Foll, a scientist in the Genetic Cancer Susceptibility Group at IARC and a lead author of the study.

This study ranks as one of only a few molecular studies that have been executed on behalf of untold thousands of mesothelioma victims who have died as a result of the disease.

“The expression of proteins associated with the immune and vascular systems in the tumors enabled us to identify molecular profiles that may explain the differences in overall survival and response to treatment,” added Foll.

While only preliminary, it could lead to more advanced and effective treatment in upcoming years.

Many More Cases of Mesothelioma Expected

Mesothelioma has a long latency period of 20-50 years. To this end, there appears to be no end yet to newly diagnosed cases in the United States, which has yet to ban the toxic substance asbestos.

Known for its excellent fireproofing properties, the mined substance was used for years in building materials such as pipe insulation and floor and ceiling tiles.

Therefore, those most at risk include:

  • Construction workers
  • Firefighters
  • Insulators
  • Shipbuilders
  • Mechanics

Sadly, one segment of the population ranks at a higher risk than others — those who served in the United States Military. Today, 1 out of every 3 people diagnosed with mesothelioma calls themselves a veteran who served faithfully on behalf of their country.

The military prolifically utilized poisonous asbestos products in ships, bases, and vehicles, which were built and installed by enlisted personnel. These unknowing military members were put in harm’s way handling the materials and breathing in the carcinogenic fibers.

While concerns about the dangerous fiber surfaced as early as the 1930s, manufacturers ignored the claims and continued producing asbestos-laced products. These companies concealed the damaging information from the U.S. Government who bought their products en masse.

Today, most industrialized countries, including Australia, Canada, and all 28 countries in the European Union, placed a ban on asbestos in recent years.

Shockingly, the United States lags behind and still allows the importation of products containing asbestos such as gaskets, friction products, and roofing and fireproofing materials.

Medical Researchers Utilized Most Accurate Data to Bolster Their Findings

The IARC worked closely with the French MESOPATH/MESOBANK database to produce the most accurate results in their crucial study. The researches employed a multicentered exhaustive repository of national clinical data, biological samples, and standardized operation procedures for malignant mesothelioma.

“We have been able to confirm our results and identify a panel of five proteins that is sufficient to characterize these molecular profiles of malignant pleural mesothelioma and that could be used in the clinic to assist the diagnosis and inform clinical management,” reports IARC scientist Dr. Lynnette Fernandez-Cuesta, co-lead author of the study.

Finally, some attention to the often-overlooked deadly disease mesothelioma serves as good news to those impacted by the rampages of the condition.

Author:Beth Swantek

Contributing Author at the Mesothelioma Justice Network

Beth Swantek

Beth has been writing about the dangers of asbestos and asbestos-related diseases since 2013. With a background in producing and directing, she now teaches her craft at a private Michigan university. After years of serving as a dedicated caregiver, Beth is passionate about helping those experiencing deep loss — such as those suffering from mesothelioma.

Last modified: December 17, 2019

View 3 Sources
  1. International Agency for Research on Cancer Press Release (2019, Oct. 25). New IARC study identifies molecular profiles of malignant pleural mesothelioma, with clinical impact. Retrieved from: https://www.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/pr277_E.pdf
  2. Alcala, N. (2019 Oct). Redefining malignant pleural mesothelioma types as a continuum uncovers immune-vascular interactions. Retrieved from: https://www.ebiomedicine.com/article/S2352-3964(19)30601-2/fulltext
  3. Garcia, D. (2019, Nov. 24). Study Identifies Molecular Profiles of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma with Clinical Impact. Retrieved from: https://www.oncozine.com/study-identifies-molecular-profiles-of-malignant-pleural-mesothelioma-with-clinical-impact/