Mesothelioma researchers have long hoped to find a conclusive way of identifying whether a patient’s cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos, and now a group of Italian scientists say that they have accomplished that goal. Researchers from the Marche Polytechnic University in Ancona, Italy recently identified a microRNA “signature” that is consistently found in cancers that are known to be caused by asbestos.
A microRNA is a microscopic structure within a cell’s RNA that helps to control how genes are expressed. The mutations that lead to cancer are often generated within the microRNA when too much or too little content is present. Each type of cancer has different types of these imbalances. The Italian researchers set out to determine whether they could isolate the specific microRNAs found in those diagnosed with cancers that are linked to exposure to asbestos. They divided study participants into four subsets, with one healthy group, one group known to have malignant pleural mesothelioma, one group with asbestos-related lung cancer and the fourth group with non-asbestos-related lung cancer. They found a specific subset of microRNA in those known to have been exposed to asbestos.
Writing about their discovery, biochemist Dr. Marco Tomasetti of the Department of Clinical and Molecular Sciences writes, “Four serum miRNAs (miR-126, miR-205, miR-222, and miR-520g) were found to be implicated in asbestos-related malignant diseases. Notably, increased expression of miR-126 and miR-222 were found in asbestos-exposed subjects, and both miRNAs are involved in major pathways linked to cancer development.”
There are many reasons that those who research and advocate for mesothelioma patients find this discovery important. For those who are working to discover a cure for this serious form of cancer, understanding what the mechanism is that begins the disease’s process provides them with new avenues for treatment. It also provides a specific profile for which a diagnostic tool can be created. And for those who work to legally prove the source of a patient’s illness, the identification of a proven link between asbestos and a physiological element will prove invaluable.
If you or someone one you love have had your life affected by mesothelioma, we can help. Contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.