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Pittsburgh Researchers Targeting of Cancer Command Centers May Benefit Mesothelioma Patients

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh have successfully used a genome editing tool to shrink aggressive tumors in several types of cancers, and there is hope that what they have accomplished will some day be used in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma.

The tool is called the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system, and it has already been noted for its ability to target genes to address some of our most vexing health riddles, including HIV and muscular dystrophy. It specifically looks for mutated genes known as fusion genes that result when mutations in two separate genes form a single hybrid gene. These genes are often the control center that commands the growth and spread of cancerous cells like mesothelioma.

In their latest research the scientists identified a specific fusion gene called MAN2AI-FER that was common to aggressive tumors of ovarian, lung, liver and prostate cancer. They then used the CRISPR-Cas9 tool to deliver replacement genetic codes that targeted the cancer genes and replaced them with cancer-killing genes. They were delivered through viruses that invaded the cells.

While traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy have been successful at killing cancer cells, they also have the disadvantage of destroying healthy cells at the same time. Using the CRISPR tool the University of Pittsburgh researchers were able to realize tumor shrinkage of up to 30 percent, while also eliminating the malignant cells metastasizing to other parts of the body. By contrast, a group of control animals whose tumors did not receive this treatment experienced tumors growing forty times larger and spreading.

Speaking of the success of the study, lead author Jian-Hua Luo said, “This is the first time that gene editing has been used to specifically target cancer fusion genes. It is really exciting because it lays the groundwork for what could become a totally new approach to treating cancer. Other types of cancer treatments target the foot soldiers of the army. Our approach is to target the command center, so there is no chance for the enemy’s soldiers to regroup in the battlefield for a comeback.”

Exciting advances in medical technology give hope to those who are struggling with mesothelioma, as they may be applicable to its treatment at some time in the future. But real answers are also needed now, as well as resources to help families through the disease’s unique challenges. If you would like information on the help that is available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today. We can be reached at 1-800-692-8608, or visit our website, mesothelioma.net.


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