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MD Anderson Researchers Discover Protein That Suppresses Mesothelioma

In what may be one of the most important discoveries regarding malignant mesothelioma, researchers from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas have found that BAP1, a protein associated with the BRCA gene, acts to suppress the growth of the rare form of cancer’s tumors. It has the same effect on bile duct cancer, eye cancer and kidney cancer. The researchers, led by Boyi Gan, Ph.D., associate professor of Experimental Radiation Oncology, found that the protein regulates ferroptosis, a specific type of cell death.


Writing in the online edition of Nature Cell Biology about his team’s discovery, and the role it could play in treating mesothelioma, Gan said, “Although BAP1 is frequently mutated or deleted in a variety of cancers, the process by which it suppresses tumors remains unclear. Our study achieved a comprehensive identification of BAP1-regulated target genes and relevant biological processes in cancer cells, and identified a BAP1-mediated epigenetic mechanism linking ferroptosis to tumor suppression.”

Malignant mesothelioma is most commonly treated using a combination of different protocols as well as a number of emerging treatments, with the most common approach including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Where surgery seeks to remove the cells from the body, chemotherapy and radiation therapy kill cells, each in their own way. There are numerous types of cell death, and the type that appears to be caused by the BAP1 protein, ferroptosis, works by depleting the cancer of an amino acid called cystine that is vital to its growth and survival. “Ferroptosis is structurally, genetically and biochemically distinct from other forms of regulated cell death such as apopotosis. It is well established that cell death, most notably apoptosis, plays important roles in tumor suppression. The roles of and regulatory mechanisms of ferroptosis in tumor biology, however, still remain largely unexplored.” Gan’s research team also determined that  by triggering an increase in the amount of a specific type of molecular carrier of oxygen known as ROS, or reactive oxygen species, the impact was even greater and resulted in even more ferroptosis-related cell death.

It is expected that the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health and others, will lead to further inquiries into the role of BAP1 protein in  treating mesothelioma. If you or a loved one has this rare asbestos-related disease and you need information on how to access treatment or other resources, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at  1-800-692-8608.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an experienced blog writer, editor, and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of expertise include health, medical research, and law.

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