Mesothelioma is a type of cancer which occurs in the inner linings of the lungs, heart or stomach. This is essentially caused due to excessive inhalation of asbestos. People who are exposed to or have been exposed to asbestos for a prolonged period of time have risks of developing this type of cancer. Accumulation of asbestos microfibers that have been inhaled or swallowed over a long period causes the DNA of the cells to mutate, thereby causing an uncontrollable cell division, thus causing cancerous growth. However, a lot of people who have been exposed to a lot of asbestos might not end up having cancer because studies have revealed that a lot more factors might be associated. For example, certain genetic factors might make an individual more susceptible to Mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure.
Image Source: oncologica.com
Types of Mesothelioma
There are four types of Mesothelioma that exist, namely;
- pleural (lining of the lungs) Mesothelioma- this is the most common type and is still not fully curable, although researchers are working vehemently in order to find newer treatments,
- peritoneal (lining of the abdomen) Mesothelioma- unlike pleural Mesothelioma, this is more curable and patients have a longer life expectancy
- pericardial (linings of the walls of the heart)- very rare occurrence and very difficult to treat;
- and finally testicular Mesothelioma- this too is very rare and sums up to only 1 percent of the total Mesothelioma cases.
Here in this article we will talk about some recent studies that have been conducted on Mesothelioma as a disease-
Mesothelioma and the dental industry-
A recent study has shown that people who have worked in the dental industry might be susceptible to Mesothelioma. One such study was conducted in Italy upon four technicians from a dental laboratory and one spouse of another technician, who had developed malignant Mesothelioma due to being exposed to asbestos as asbestos was used in the manufacture of dental prosthesis previously. Basically, the study was carried out upon 5344 patients with pleural Mesothelioma in Italy between 2000 and 2014. It was found that there were four patients, who had only the dental industry as the only documented way of exposure to asbestos. Among these four patients, three were males who worked as technicians in the dental industry, and one was a female who was the wife to another technician and had spent 30 years in helping her husband out. The time periods of exposure to asbestos varied from 4 years for one individual to 34 years for another.
Thus, the researchers confirmed that there is an association between the occurrence of malignant Mesothelioma and being a technician in the dental industry.
Mesothelioma and inflammation marker
A new finding suggests that a newly-identified protein form of BRCA-associated with protein-1 can increase the vulnerability of the pleural Mesothelioma cells to certain cancer therapies. This means that the mentioned protein might be able to affect the response of the cancer cells to drugs which impair the DNA repair mediated by the BRCA1 protein.
Mesothelioma and its personalised treatment approaches
It is a well-known fact that there is no particular treatment for all the types of Mesothelioma and that the patients’ response to various treatments differs from person to person. Researchers are constantly working and carrying out various studies in order to find more suitable treatments for Mesothelioma. Here are some of the newest approaches under investigation-
- Biological therapy– chemotherapy has a lot of bad side effects and biotherapies are to bypass these side-effects. In this technique, the body will be brought in such a condition such that the immune system will get a boost and fight the cancerous substances with naturally produced body substances like Interferon, Bevacizumab, Interleukin-2, and Erlotinib. With these therapies, patients do not have to undergo acute hair loss. However, some patients might experience severe allergic reactions or flu-like experience. Researchers are hence trying to find out ways so that these reactions can be avoided.
- Anti-angiogenesis- The current drug used Pemetrexed and Cisplatin in combination with another drug called Cediranib. The researchers think that the joint effect of the drugs will effectively handle the spread of the cancerous growth by destroying the harmful cells. Cediranib essentially works by blocking certain enzymes that the cancerous cells need in order to grow. Research is still going on, on other drugs that might prevent tumours from growing. This approach is named as anti-angiogenesis.
- Photodynamic therapy– As the name suggests, this is a light based treatment that uses light-activated drugs in order to fight cancer. In this therapy, the doctors have been injecting the experimental drug into the blood stream of the patient. This causes the medicine to spread throughout the body and is absorbed by the cancer cells more than the healthy cells. After this, the doctors shine special laser beams on the key areas, which in turn triggers chemical reactions, thereby killing the cancer cells and leaving the normal cells mostly unharmed. However, not many trials have been conducted with this therapy and research still continues.
- Gene therapy– This is another new approach that the doctors are looking forward to. As the name suggests, the genetics of individuals are used in guiding the treatment. As we know, the susceptibility to cancer largely depends on the genes of individuals along with the other factors. So, in this therapy, the doctors have tried to alter the genes of the patients in order to prevent cancer. The genes that were damaged or mutated due to prolonged exposure to asbestos may be repaired or replaced. The genetic code of the cancer cells may be changed such that it becomes easier to kill them.
In one of the gene therapy trials, the patient’s blood cells were modified in such a way that they targeted the cancer cells and thereby possibly reduced the cancerous growth. Presently, treatment for advanced Mesothelioma has not been successful. However, with this therapy, the researchers think that the treatment will be possible, and definitely, further testing is this field is required.
The researchers work relentlessly in order to find various new treatments for fighting cancer. So the future of cancer treatment looks really bright because the treatment procedures will definitely evolve and make treating Mesothelioma possible.