Malignant mesothelioma ranks among the most difficult forms of cancer to treat. The disease, which is caused by exposure to asbestos, is generally advanced at the time of its diagnosis, and has proven to be particularly resistant to chemotherapy and other traditional protocols.
New research out of the University of Michigan may lead to an innovative way of killing mesothelioma cells, as well as preventing it from metastasizing to other areas of the body.
The research is not focused specifically on mesothelioma, but on an enzyme that has been shown to be present in all cancer cells. The enzyme, called telomerase, is not found in healthy adult cells but is present in human stem cells.
Telemerase allows our stem cells to divide without losing genetic material: it does so by attaching itself to the ends of our chromosomes. Since most cells in the human body do not divide, they do not contain this enzyme, yet cancer cells do.
The researchers discovered an area on a protein called TPP1 that is responsible for this enzyme’s ability to bind. This discovery can lead to that protein becoming a target for anti-cancer drugs.
According to lead researcher Jayakrishnan Nandakuma, “the reason we need this enzyme is because stem cells are these cells in our body that need to keep dividing throughout life to give rise to new cells. The bad part is that we know cancer is a reality, ad 90 percent of cancers, irrespective of the type, kind, stage, tissue or organ, actually switch on telomerase.”
“Why is it a big deal? It’s a big deal because telomerase is a great anticancer target. It’s not present in every single cell in the body – and so if you stop telomerase somehow, cancer cells can’t re-elongate their chromosomes, and they would ultimately die.”
Though this finding represents a vital step in cancer research, it is still a long way from representing a cure for mesothelioma. To learn more about mesothelioma research and other vital resources available to those diagnosed with this asbestos-related disease, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.