A recent mesothelioma study by cancer researchers in the UK may have found a crack in the armor of mesothelioma, an especially deadly form of cancer. Their findings could represent a significant breakthrough in treating mesothelioma, giving hope to the thousands who are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Fighting A Deadly Form of Cancer

About 3,000 people in the US are diagnosed with mesothelioma annually. Although the number of patients with mesothelioma has declined in the US since 1994 with the advent of asbestos regulation, the incident rate is much higher in less-developed countries.

The median survival rate for people diagnosed with mesothelioma is between a year and 21 months, depending on how advanced the disease is at the time of diagnosis.

Mesothelioma is Highly Resistant to Cancer Drugs

Mesothelioma is so deadly because it usually isn’t limited to one tumor mass. It tends to spread easily to other parts of the body, which makes hunting down and killing all the cancer cells difficult. Mesothelioma cells can even survive chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Gene Targeting May Hold the Key to Treatment

The British mesothelioma study may have found a way to hack the body’s normal method of disposing of cells that are damaged, including the deadly mesothelioma cells. The process, called apoptosis, instructs an unhealthy cell to shut itself down, but it normally doesn’t affect cancer cells. The study showed that gene therapy can use apoptosis to instruct mesothelioma cells to “commit suicide.”

Although the mesothelioma study was conducted on mice, it holds promise that it might also work for humans, which is likely one of the next phases of research.

Possible Preventative Use

The same study found that it may be possible to pinpoint the most aggressive forms of mesothelioma, which are notoriously difficult to diagnose, even sooner. Researchers were able to correlate higher amounts of a protein called HOXB4 with lower patient survival times. Thus, screening a patient for HOXB4 may help with more accurate staging. Catching the disease early helps prolong patient prognosis – by more than a year, in some cases.

New Hope for Mesothelioma Patients

Ian Jarrold, the researcher at the helm of the British Lung Foundation, which funded the mesothelioma study, says that he is optimistic that the research will lead to new treatments for mesothelioma patients. He hopes the early results of the study will provide mesothelioma patients with “new hope” in their fight against the disease.

For more information about mesothelioma research, read our coverage of a UK clinical trial that is testing safer diagnosis methods. If you have already been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to reimbursement for your treatment and other expenses. Talk to one of our lawyers to learn more.