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Researchers Find Presence or Absence of Protein Predictive of Mesothelioma Survival

The European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) Conference being held in Barcelona, Spain was the site of a startling announcement by a team of Spanish researchers. The team from Vall d’Hebron Institute Oncology in Barcelona, led by Dr. Susana Cedres, has announced the discovery of a protein that is expressed in roughly twenty percent of mesothelioma patients and that is predictive of their survival rates.

The protein, known by the name PD-L1 or programmed cell death ligand 1, has been being studied in its role in the immune system. It has been determined the PD-L1 is involved in suppressing the body’s natural immune response which fights against the growth of tumors. When the protein is present, it apparently prevents the body from attacking cancer as it is growing. This suppression plays an important part I in the growth and spread of cancer, and previous studies have shown that its presence is directly linked to a patient’s prognosis. Now the group has found that the same is true for patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.

The researchers analyzed tissue samples that had been collected from 119 mesothelioma patients over a twelve year period between 2002 and 2014. The patients were largely men with a median age of 69. The scientists compared the presence and level of the PD-L1 with each patient’s survival, and found that those who had the highest level of the protein on their tissue sample were those who lived the shortest period of time. The average survival was nearly a year shorter than those patients whose cells did not have the protein on their surface. In examining their findings they found that the protein was present in roughly 20% of the patients. PD-L1 was not linked to any other specifications within the patient group – it had no link to gender, age, asbestos exposure or smoking habits.

This discovery is extremely important, as it not only provides scientists with a biomarker that can reveal which patients have a longer survival rate, but also enables a targeted approach to be taken for the unfortunate 20% who are found to have the protein present within their cells. “The results of our study could offer new treatment to this population of patients, identifying a subset of malignant pleural mesothelioma who expressed PD-L1 and could be treated with targeted therapies to PD-L1.” The best possible hope for these patients would be found in the relatively new science of immunotherapy, a treatment protocol that targets specific cells and manipulates the patient’s immune system to identify them and attack them or deliver specialized treatments to them.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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