New Research to Improve Mesothelioma Treatments

February 13, 2013

1033916_medical_instruments_3.jpgMalignant mesothelioma is a notoriously chemotherapy-resistant cancer, which contributes to the diseases' extraordinary number of fatalities associated with the disease. Researchers at the University of Michigan recently released a study that found potential to match specific tumors with known cancer drugs, paving the way for more targeted and, ultimately effective, cancer treatment. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins highlight this new study to demonstrate that hope for mesothelioma patients may be on the horizon and is being developed by some of the country's brightest researchers.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center examined the landscape of cancer kinome expression. A kinome is a biological term, referring to the set of protein kinases in an organism's hereditary DNA or RNA. "Kinases" as a term itself is relatively new, first used by Gerard Manning in 2002 when he and his colleagues identified 518 human kinase genes.

Protein kinases are the key controllers of cell behavior, and are arguably the most significant candidates for new cancer treatments. Personalized medicine for cancer has become more and more sought after in recent years, and kinases identification provides immense possibility for this type of medicine. In mesothelioma and numerous other types of cancer, kinases work as drivers, leading the gradual transformation of healthy tissue into that of malignant mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos.

Michigan researchers developed a database of all kinase inhibitor drugs, which may be the key to developing additional drugs to kill specific cancer cells. Researchers also have an inventory of mutations known to play a role in cancer, known as oncogenic kinases. The ultimate goal is to match each mutation and inhibitor therapy with individual patients. Kinase inhibitors currently used to treat mesothelioma include erlotinib, dasatinib, and gefitinib.

Michigan researchers examined more than 480 samples of cancerous and non-cancerous tissue RNA, which is the viral version of DNA. They identified the most significantly expressed kinases in samples of breast and pancreatic cancers, and were able to recognize common themes. Many of the samples expressed just one or two specific kinases that were highly expressed in those cancer tissues. Identifying these over-expressed kinases enables researchers to develop drugs that block those kinases, so the cancer cannot spread or strengthen. For example, Michigan researchers found that, in breast cancer samples, the kinase FGFR3 was highly expressed, and using a drug that blocks FGFR4, in conjunction with a chemotherapy drug, improved the cancer-fighting effects.

These tests were conducted only in lab samples, and still need to be tested in live cancer patients. The Michigan Cancer Center is actively using kinome sequencing techniques to match cancer patients with potential clinical trials. The patients will be selected based on the advancement of their cancer and genetic make-up of their tumors.

Several studies have previously identified specific kinase activation in mesothelioma pathogenesis, although none have yet had any significant clinical success. The Michigan study proved, however, that there are many more cancer kinases soon to be discovered, each holding the potential for more effective treatments, and, ultimately, a cure.

Even with intensive and multi-modal therapies, mesothelioma is cured in fewer than 5% of patients. Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins understand how devastating a cancer diagnosis is, and will continue to advocate on behalf of victims of asbestos exposure throughout the country. If you or someone you love was diagnosed with mesothelioma, or any other illness related to asbestos exposure, contact a skilled asbestos attorney immediately for a free legal consultation.