A team of British scientists are hopeful that a new breakthrough treatment will show promise to mesothelioma victims and help take treatment options to the next level.
According to the research published in the BioMed Central (BMC) journal, scientists from the U.K.’s Universities of Bradford and Surrey reported that after administering the novel drug HRX9 into mesothelioma cells, it helped trigger cell death. HRX9 targets the HOX gene family, and after three weeks of treatment, the scientists notated that mesothelioma tumors in mice died after losing their blood vessels. The body has a natural response when shutting down cells, yet the new treatment works by ensuring cancer cells can’t get around this process.
While trying to find an effective method to target the HOX gene , scientists noticed that the gene has a strain called HOXB4, which they believe gives them an accurate prediction of how aggressive the mesothelioma will be, according to each patient. Professor Richard Morgan of Bradford’s Institute of Cancer Therapeutics, who led the research, stated that the patients with a higher level HOXB4 would more than likely have a shorter survival time.
“We examined the amount of HOXB4 protein in tumours of 21 mesothelioma patients and compared it with their length of survival. There was a clear link: the more HOXB4 we found, the shorter time the patient survived, so we may also have found a way to predict which patients have the most aggressive form of this cancer.”
He also explained how HRX9 targets and kills off cancerous cells. So far, it’s the first of its kind to prove effective on mesothelioma.
“Both the immune system and nearby healthy cells send signals instructing damaged and unhealthy cells to undergo apoptosis, which is like programmed ‘cell suicide’. But cancer cells have developed a wide range of strategies to ignore these instructions. There’s a range of drugs which try to force apoptosis in different cancers, but this is the first one to work in mesothelioma.”
More studies are still needed to determine the effectiveness of the new treatment, but in the meantime, Morgan states that as more medical options become available, the Western part of the world may begin to see a decline in asbestos-related diagnoses. However, for continents such as Africa and some areas of Asia, Morgan feels that there is still a major problem, especially in areas where asbestos is still used heavily in ship-building.
“Mesothelioma may become much less of a problem in the West, but it’s still going to be a significant public health problem in many parts of the world. We already know that it’s resistant to available drugs, which is why we need entirely new treatments.”
In the meantime, Ian Jarrold, head of research at the British Lung Foundation, the charity organization that helped to fund Morgan’s research, stated that this is a promising breakthrough that can potentially bring hope to mesothelioma patients, who always want to know right away what their treatment options are.
“People living with mesothelioma often tell us that among their first reactions to diagnosis is despair at the lack of treatment available. We hope that the progress being made in research we fund will soon provide new treatments and new hope for patients.”
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