Could Huntington Disease Gene Help Cure Mesothelioma?

There are many reasons that researchers consider malignant mesothelioma one of the most challenging  cancers to treat.

The reasons include:

  • Mesothelioma has an extremely long latency period, sometimes taking as long as 50 years after the patient’s exposure to asbestos before its symptoms begin to appear. This means that patients’ disease is often more advanced, and the patients themselves are often older and in poorer health
  • Mesothelioma is extremely rare, with approximately 3,500 cases diagnosed each year. This makes research more difficult
  • Mesothelioma has proven to be far more resistant to chemotherapy than other forms of cancer

The last of these problems is the only one that scientists are able to take on directly, and so they have made it a goal to find ways to weaken mesothelioma cells and make them more vulnerable to medicines that can kill tumor cells and stop them from returning or spreading.

Scientists from Northwestern University believe they may have found a way in an unlikely source – the gene that is behind the progression of Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s Disease is like mesothelioma in several ways. It is extremely rare, appearing in only about 30,000 Americans each year. It has no cure, and progresses slowly.

The Northwestern scientists, led by senior author Marcus Peter, set out to find out why patients diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease have a lower risk of cancer than then general population. The team found that a gene that Huntington’s Disease patients share, which mutates and kills nerve cells in the brain, is even more toxic to cancer cells, making it a potentially valuable tool in the search for a cure for mesothelioma.

Peter, who is the Tom D. Spies Professor of Cancer Metabolism, did not hold back in his enthusiasm for the gene’s potential curative uses, saying, “This molecule is a super assassin against all tumor cells. We’ve never seen anything this powerful.”

Their initial experimentation with delivering the gene as a cancer treatment found significant reduction in tumor growth with no toxicity and no resulting resistance to the drug. They plan further research.

For those diagnosed with mesothelioma, breakthroughs in research cannot come fast enough. If you need more information on resources available to you, contact the Patients Advocates at today 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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