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Genes May Determine Mesothelioma Tumor Location

Mesothelioma is a rare and always fatal form of cancer that is caused by exposure to the carcinogenic mineral asbestos. In most cases, that exposure has been found to be related to the patient’s occupational history, as asbestos was frequently used in high heat and construction job sites because of its strength and its characteristic flame and heat retardance. Asbestos can break down into tiny fibers that are easily inhaled or ingested, and once it enters the body it becomes embedded in cells, where it causes cell death and subsequent mutation into mesothelioma tumors. Mesothelioma generally forms in either the lungs (malignant pleural mesothelioma) or the abdominal cavity (malignant peritoneal mesothelioma), and it has long been theorized that the location of the tumors is based upon whether the asbestos fibers were inhaled or ingested. But now a study out of Japan is indicating that the location of mesothelioma tumors in the body may be genetically linked.

Researchers from Nara Medical University in Japan recently published an article in the Journal of Clinical Pathology detailing their findings regarding genomic differences between patients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma of the pleural lining and patients diagnosed with mesothelioma of the peritoneal lining. They examined tissue samples obtained from dozens of mesothelioma patients, the majority of whom had pleural mesothelioma. Their analysis used a chromosome test called fluorescence in situ hybridization, or FISH, which helped them to determine that of the 40 patients diagnosed with mesothelioma in the lungs, 85% exhibited a deletion of the 9p21 chromosome. That particular gene is linked to cardiovascular disease. By contrast, among those with peritoneal mesothelioma only 36% were missing the gene. The deletion of this particular gene has previously been used as a diagnostic differentiator between malignant mesothelioma and a condition known as reactive mesothelial proliferation, which is benign.

In looking at the samples from patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, they found that they exhibited an amplification of two entirely different genes — 5p15 and 7p12 — that was not present in those with pleural mesothelioma.

Commenting on their findings, lead author Dr. Maiko Takeda of the university’s Department of Diagnostic Pathology wrote, “Our study suggests that the pathway of the genetic abnormality might vary between pleural and peritoneal malignant mesothelioma.”

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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