Genes May Play a Role in the Success of Radiation Therapy for Mesothelioma

Almost immediately after diagnosis, many victims of malignant pleural mesothelioma begin a course of treatment that includes radiation therapy in hopes that the treatment will shrink and kill the tumors. But a group of researchers from the University of Bern has learned that the success of this treatment may depend on the individual patient’s genes, and that the internal coding of some cancers will render the treatment ineffective.

Radiation Therapy is Standard Treatment in Malignant Mesothelioma

Radiation therapy is an invaluable tool in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma and other cancers. Whether its goal is to cure or to provide relief from pain and discomfort, it employs radiation to damage the DNA of cancerous tissue. But the treatment works much better in some patients than in others, and now researchers have determined why.

Led by Professor Sven Rottenberg working collaboratively with the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, Swiss researchers have determined that the reason different people have different responses to radiation therapy is the presence or absence of specific genes within their tumors’ cells.

Mesothelioma Cells May Contain Genes That Self-Repair After Radiation Therapy

Professor Rottenberg’s report was published in the journal Cell Reports, and will likely be highly significant for malignant mesothelioma researchers and physicians. His team determined that what differentiates the success of radiation therapy is the presence or absence of DNA that repairs the cells after the radiation is applied. The team conducted genetic screening which determined that where repair genes are missing in cancer cells, the radiation therapy is successful, while some cancer cells’ genetics help them to heal and continue growing and spreading throughout the body.

The study did not focus specifically on mesothelioma, but if specific patients’ cells give their tumors a genetic advantage against radiation therapy then personalized medicine may provide a solution. By taking an individual patient’s genetic code into account, physicians will be able to provide tailored treatments that counter the impact of their individual genetics. Professor Rottenberg writes, “For many cancer patients, their relatives and treating physicians, it is incredibly frustrating when there is no success after a painstaking radiotherapy that takes weeks. We hope that our findings contribute to better predicting the chance of therapy success.”

For more information on the treatments available to mesothelioma patients, contact the Patient Advocates at at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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