Research to end asbestos-related cancer

Asbestos hazard. Credit: Shutterstock

Scientists from Flinders University are trying to develop a new treatment for a highly aggressive, asbestos-related lung cancer that is set to become more prevalent in the future.

Led by Associate Professor Sonja Klebe, the researchers are testing a combination of drugs and to block two proteins that help stimulate the growth of mesothelioma – a deadly tumour that develops on the surface lining of the lungs from exposure to airborne .

Australia has the highest incidence of mesothelioma in the world, with about 700 new cases each year, due to the country's long history of asbestos use, particularly in the construction industry, between 1945 and 1980.

Although asbestos is now banned, the disease is expected to peak to about 900 annual cases in Australia by 2020 because of the nation's continued exposure to buildings containing asbestos and the latency of the disease, which can take years to develop.

Associate Professor Klebe said the team were trying to target a growth factor and a that promote tumour growth directly and/or help grow the that feed the tumour.

"In order for the to grow it needs nutrients from the blood so it secretes these proteins and they signal for blood vessels to grow," Associate Professor Klebe, based in the Department of Anatomical Pathology at Flinders Medical Centre, said.

"We know that blocking alone can delay the progression of and so does blocking alone but no one knows what happens when you block them together," she said.

"There's no cure for mesothelioma and the only treatment besides chemotherapy is aggressive surgery that strips the lining of the rib cage and removes the lung, providing only one lung has been affected, so hopefully we can offer a much less invasive and more effective treatment in the future, when the prevalence of the disease is likely to reach its peak."

The researchers are the first in the world to test the blockade treatment on both proteins simultaneously, using human cells from pleural effusion fluid collected to relieve symptoms of breathlessness after patients have been diagnosed.

Associate Professor Klebe said the novel treatment would be tested on its ability to stop metastases, or cancer spread to other organs, as well as to ensure it does not kill healthy cells.

As it is difficult for clinicians to predict patient survival, Associate Professor Klebe said the two proteins could also be used as prognostic markers.

"We know that if a patient has high levels of the growth factor in their blood they will die quicker but we've now discovered that increased levels of the membrane protein are also associated with survival.

"So not only could we have a better way of treating mesothelioma, the two proteins allow us to give a more accurate prediction on how long people will survive."

Related Stories

High levels of blood-based protein specific to mesothelioma

date Oct 10, 2012

Researchers at NYU School of Medicine have discovered the protein product of a little-known gene may one day prove useful in identifying and monitoring the development of mesothelioma in early stages, when aggressive treatment ...

E-nose detects malignant mesothelioma

date Aug 02, 2012

Australian researchers have developed a breath test using an electronic nose to help diagnose malignant mesothelioma in its early stages, a potentially life-saving move.

Recommended for you

To stop cancer: Block its messages

date 1 hour ago

The average living cell needs communication skills: It must transmit a constant stream of messages quickly and efficiently from its outer walls to the inner nucleus, where most of the day-to-day decisions ...

Researchers develop new potential drug for rare leukemia

date 2 hours ago

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have developed a new drug that shows potential in laboratory studies against a rare type of acute leukemia. And additional studies suggest ...

How immune cells facilitate the spread of breast cancer

date 2 hours ago

The body's immune system fights disease, infections and even cancer, acting like foot soldiers to protect against invaders and dissenters. But it turns out the immune system has traitors amongst their ranks. ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.