Swiss Study Identifies Mechanism Behind Asbestos’ Role in Mesothelioma

Though it has long been established that malignant mesothelioma is a result of exposure to asbestos, scientists have struggled to explain exactly how the carcinogenic material triggers the growth of cancer cells.

Now, an in-depth scientific study has been conducted by the Swiss National Science Foundation, and it has revealed the exact mechanism that the fiber creates within the body’s cells. According to the team’s researchers, the damage that is done by asbestos follows an immune reaction to the inflammation.

According to the study’s leader, Emanuela Felley-Bosco, mesothelioma begins following contact between the long, pointed fibers of asbestos and the cells of the mesothelium. The body is unable to expel the fibers via the lymphatic system, and the fibers cause micro injuries to the tissue.

This triggers an immune reaction in which white blood cells rush to the site of the injury to begin tissue repair. Unfortunately, the cells proliferate too much and form tumors, and at the same time the cells’ RNA mutates. This is how the cancer grows out of control.

The mesothelioma researchers’ conclusions are backed up by previously-known information about the disease: specifically, that mesothelioma patients with shorter survival times have large amounts of the enzyme that causes these RNA mutations in their cells. Knowing this can help researchers address the disease from an immune-response perspective, and may further the identification of an effective treatment protocol.

According to Felley-Bosco, “Previously cancer caused by asbestos was a black box. A therapy against immune system inhibitors is a promising approach.”

She points out that mesothelioma immunotherapy research is ongoing at five Swiss hospitals, as well as ten other hospitals across Europe. This study was a collaboration between University Hospitals of Zurich, Geneva and Toronto, Canada, as well as the University of Fribourg and ETH Zurich.

The more that researchers understand about mesothelioma, the better the chances that they will someday find an effective treatment, or maybe even prevent the asbestos-related disease from taking hold.

If you would like to speak with somebody who can provide you with more helpful information, contact the Patient Advocates at at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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