Researchers identify mechanism linking mesothelioma and asbestos exposure

13 Mar 2018 by under Research/Treatment

research test tubes 100x100 Researchers identify mechanism linking mesothelioma and asbestos exposureA team of researchers has found the exact mechanism that causes malignant mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer linked to exposure.

According to a study by the Swiss National Science Foundation, malignant begins when the long, pointed fibers of asbestos come in contact with the cells of the mesothelium, the membrane that covers the lungs and other organs. The body is unable to expel the fibers through the lymphatic system, leaving them to wreak havoc on tissue creating micro injuries. This causes an immune reaction, triggering white blood cells to rush to the site of the injury to repair the tissue. But, the cells multiply so quickly that tumors form and the cells’ RNA mutates, creating the perfect landscape for the cancer to grow out of control.

The study was conducted through a collaboration between the University Hospitals of Zurich, Geneva and Toronto, Canada, and the University of Fribourg and ETH Zurich.

Previous studies have shown that mesothelioma patients who die sooner have large amounts of the enzyme that causes these specific RNA mutations in their cells. These studies can help scientists approach mesothelioma from an immune-response perspective and could help better identify an effective treatment plan.

“Previously, cancer caused by asbestos was a black box,” said the study’s leader Emanuela Felley-Bosco. “A therapy against immune system inhibitors is a promising approach.”

Immunotherapy research focused on mesothelioma is continuing at five Swiss hospitals and another 10 throughout Europe, Felley-Bosco said. As scientists learn more about this deadly disease, the better chances they’ll have at finding an effective treatment or, better yet, a way to prevent asbestos-related diseases from occurring.


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