Though malignant mesothelioma is always fatal, there is one specific subtype of the disease that is more aggressive than the other two, and which spreads more quickly and leads to a much shorter survival time. Scientists have been working for years to understand the mechanism by which this subtype works in order to create an effective control, and now researchers from Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) of MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital believe they have identified it: they’ve found that the tumors that form in this type of mesothelioma actually receive signals from two specific growth factors known as FGF2 and EGF which cause them to assume special characteristics. The researchers are now trying to determine whether interrupting the growth factors will stop those characteristics that drive aggressive can be stopped from forming.
Interestingly, the characteristics that facilitate aggressive growth and mobility in mesothelioma cells are the same characteristics that help us to heal and grow when we are healthy. If you consider the way that the body heals itself, or the way that a fetus develops in the womb, the only way that both of theses processes are possible is for cells that normally stay in one place being able to move from one spot to another. The cells that normally remain in place, known as epithelial cells, experience changes to their properties and appearance and become mesenchymal cells that are not fixed to a specific spot: the process is known as as epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT.)
Speaking of their findings on mesothelioma, molecular biologist at the Institute of Cancer Research and member of the Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) of MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital Michael Grusch said, “EMT plays a key role in the development of metastases and in local spread. Especially in the aggressive forms of malignant pleural mesothelioma, we could see that the tumour cells are very similar in appearance to mesenchymal cells. In a petri dish, we have now investigated which biological signals cause the cancer cells to take on the characteristics of these mesenchymal cells.”
Grusch is one of the two principal investigators of the study along with Karen Schelch of the Institute of Cancer Research of MedUni Vienna and who is also a member of the CCC and lead author. She explains that they found that the process is triggered by substances known as fibroblast growth factors (FGF2) and epidermal growth factors (EGF) which bind to the tumor cell receptors. “If FGF2 and EGF are in play, the tumor subtype becomes more aggressive.”
Most importantly, the researchers found that mesothelioma cells that were exposed to chemicals that blocked the effect of FGF2 and EGF quickly lost their aggression. Second lead author Mir Ali Reza Hoda of the Department of Surgery of MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital said,”Our results help to provide a better understanding of the disease. Blockading these signals could therefore offer new approaches for treating certain aggressive forms of mesothelioma.
This discovery is among the most notable in mesothelioma research, and offers new avenues of study that offer real hope. If you are a mesothelioma patient and you need information about the ways that innovative research can help you, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today. You can reach us at 1-800-692-8608.