Though it has long been known that malignant mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, the mechanism behind the rare form of cancer’s development has remained a mystery. This month a group of researchers from the University of Hawaii published a study that may hold the answer to that question.
Is Mesothelioma Caused by Release of Protein?
The mesothelioma study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S., and centered on a protein called HMGB1. The researchers determined that after exposure to asbestos, cells release the HMGB1 protein, initiating an inflammatory process that eventually leads to the development of mesothelioma tumors.
The scientists set out to identify the primary cell type in which HMGB1 is produced after asbestos exposure. Working with genetically modified mice, that had been exposed to asbestos, they were able to determine that during the earliest phases of mesothelioma development, the mesothelial cells that form the lining of the abdomen, thorax, and internal organs release HMGB1. Later on in the process, the protein is released by inflammatory cells.
Next Steps in Mesothelioma Research
With the information that they have already gleaned, the mesothelioma researchers will now move forward to examine these identified cells further to see whether molecules within can be targeted to stop or slow the rare form of cancer’s growth.
The mesothelioma research team was led by the University of Hawai’i Cancer Center’s Haining Yang, MD, Ph.D. and Michele Carbone, MD, PhD. Writing of their findings, Dr. Yang said, “We are very encouraged by these results, and we hope to develop more effective preventive and therapeutic strategies for those who are at risk of developing mesothelioma because they have been exposed to asbestos.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can help. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.FREE Mesothelioma Packet