In what may be a game changer in the world of mesothelioma research, an international team from NYU Langone in New York and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa announced they successfully halted the growth of malignant mesothelioma in lab animals by inhibiting a specific enzyme.
In a joint study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the scientists detail their discovery that mesothelioma cancer cells use heparanase, an enzyme that they secrete, to break down barriers that surround mesothelioma tumors, thus allowing new blood vessels to provide the tumors with additional nourishment and the opportunity to grow.
They also found a link between higher levels of the enzyme measured in mesothelioma patients’ blood and a worsening of the patient’s prognosis. By disrupting the production of the enzyme through the use of specially targeted inhibitors, the group was able to stop tumor growth and significantly extend the lab animals’ survival time.
The researchers’ unique approach was driven by the work of Technion’s Professor Israel Vlodavsky, who is considered the world’s leading expert on the heparanase enzyme. Because of his studies into the activity of the enzyme, it has been targeted as a therapy for cancer.
A further study of hundreds of frozen mesothelioma samples confirmed the enzyme’s role in the progression of mesothelioma in patients, as well as its role as an indicator of survival.
This study offers hope for mesothelioma patients because the median survival time achieved in the study represented an improvement over what has previously been achievable with the use of chemotherapy.
The group will soon begin conducting clinical trials to determine the safety and effectiveness of the protocol in human mesothelioma patients.
Clinical trials and studies like this one offer the greatest possible chance for a medical breakthrough for mesothelioma patients, but there are other resources available to improve quality of life and outlook. For more information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.