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Scientists Hopeful about Combining Gene Therapy with Chemotherapy

The protein mesothelin was recently the target of an innovative study conducted by researchers from Italy, the United Kingdom and Japan.  Publishing in the online open-access medical journal PLoS One, the scientists determined that by inhibiting or halting the production of mesothelin in mesothelioma cancer cell lines, they not only were able to slow the spread of the cancer cells but were also able to achieve an enhancing effect for the use of the chemotherapy drug cisplatin.

Mesothelin is a protein that is found in high levels in patients who have mesothelioma. It is also overexpressed in such illnesses as ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer.  Though scientists are not yet certain as to why the protein is found in such high quantities in those who have been diagnosed with these diseases, they believe that finding the answer will lead to important advances in their treatment.

One of the approaches being taken with the protein is the targeting of its gene structure, utilizing immunotherapy to stop the gene responsible for its overproduction. Their results were encouraging, as they found that by silencing the MSLN gene that encodes for the protein they were able to achieve a reduced invasive capacity and multiplication of the mesothelioma cell lines that were being tested. Furthermore, the use of immunotherapy on the mesothelioma cells also seemed to make them more vulnerable to the impact of cisplatin, one of the most popular chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment of the disease. Notably, the researchers reported that though each of the therapies that they studied has benefits and values on their own, when applied in combination it worked better than either of the popular treatments do on their own.

The conclusion of the study’s authors was that the MSLN gene responsible for encoding the protein that expresses mesothelin in excess in patients with mesothelioma and other forms of cancer “should be considered a key molecular target” for future studies into treatments. The mesothelioma research community has expressed increasing optimism about the future of gene therapy and immunotherapy for the future of combatting mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare and always fatal form of cancer that is caused by exposure to the mineral asbestos. Though asbestos use has been largely discontinued in the United States it is still present in many buildings and continues to sicken approximately 3,500 victims every year.

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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