Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a rare but aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and chest wall. The prognosis for MPM patients is generally poor, with a median survival of around 12 months from diagnosis. However, advances in molecular profiling techniques have opened up new avenues for improving MPM treatment by identifying specific molecular targets and enabling the development of personalized therapeutic strategies.
Molecular profiling involves the analysis of genetic and other molecular alterations in cancer cells, which can provide insights into the underlying biology of the tumor and help guide treatment decisions. There are several different types of molecular profiling techniques that can be used in MPM, including DNA sequencing, RNA sequencing, proteomics, and metabolomics.
One of the key benefits of molecular profiling in MPM is the ability to identify specific genetic mutations or alterations that may be driving tumor growth. For example, studies have shown that around 50-60% of MPM cases have mutations in the tumor suppressor gene BAP1, which can lead to dysregulation of cell growth and division. Other common mutations in MPM include alterations in the NF2, CDKN2A, and TP53 genes.
By identifying these specific mutations, researchers can develop targeted therapies that are designed to inhibit the activity of the mutated gene or pathway. For example, drugs that target the NF2/merlin pathway are currently under investigation for the treatment of MPM, as this pathway is frequently altered in the disease. Similarly, drugs that target the DNA repair pathway may be effective in patients with BAP1 mutations, as these mutations can lead to increased sensitivity to DNA-damaging agents.
In addition to identifying specific genetic mutations, molecular profiling can also be used to classify MPM tumors based on their molecular characteristics. This can help to identify subgroups of patients who may benefit from different treatment approaches. For example, one study used RNA sequencing to classify MPM tumors into three subtypes based on their gene expression profiles. Patients with the “mesenchymal” subtype had a poorer prognosis compared to those with the “epithelioid” or “mixed” subtypes, suggesting that different treatment approaches may be needed for each subtype.
Another potential application of molecular profiling in MPM is the identification of biomarkers that can be used to predict response to treatment or monitor disease progression. For example, one study found that patients with MPM who had higher levels of the protein mesothelin in their blood had a poorer prognosis compared to those with lower levels, suggesting that mesothelin could be a useful biomarker for disease monitoring.
Overall, molecular profiling has the potential to significantly improve MPM treatment by enabling the development of personalized therapeutic strategies based on the specific molecular characteristics of each patient’s tumor. While there are still many challenges to overcome, including the need for larger clinical trials and the development of more effective targeted therapies, the use of molecular profiling in MPM is likely to become increasingly important in the coming years as our understanding of the disease continues to evolve.