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An Inhalable Gene Therapy is Being Tested for Mesothelioma

Published: July 22, 2022

An inhalable gene therapy could potentially be approved for use in mesothelioma patients. Researchers in Japan have created two different tumor suppressing drugs that work by targeting genetic mutations. The drugs were created for non-small cell cancer and pleural mesothelioma. They are both doing well in the laboratory. The drugs are known as SFD-p16 and SFD-p53. They are administered with an inhalant powder that helps administer the drug to the lungs. It is easy enough to use that patients can administer the drug themselves.

It can be hard to find effective treatments for mesothelioma that do not involve invasive procedures. This is problematic because aggressive treatments can be hard on patients and can diminish quality of life. Major surgery can be very hard on patients and side effects can last a long time. Chemotherapy can also be harmful and give uncomfortable side effects while not doing much to help the patient. The inhalable drug is showing to be an effective treatment, even without these aggressive treatments and procedures. SFD-p16 had a cancer growth inhibition rate of 50 percent compared to 9.3 percent for the placebo group. SFD-p53 had a cancer growth inhibition rate of 52.1 percent. When researchers performed in vivo testing, where mice were injected with tumor cell lines, mesothelioma and lung cancer responded similarly, especially with SFD-p16. The researchers utilized luminescence imaging to view tumor suppression 24 hours after the administration of the drug. The tumors were then removed and researchers observed that the tumors had a significant change in volume.

Gene therapy for mesothelioma has gained traction over the years. It started with the discovery of the BAP-1 genetic mutation in mesothelioma patients more than 10 years ago. Genetics are incredibly important to look at when treating cancer. Mutations in the BLM gene for instance makes people more susceptible to mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos. Once genetic testing becomes more advanced, it could create better survival times for people diagnosed with mesothelioma.

There could soon be clinical trials for the inhalable gene therapy. Another clinical trial modifying T-cells of patients is currently testing. When the T-cells are changed, they target mesothelin, a protein expressed by multiple cancers. It is believed that T-cell therapy will soon be a standard treatment for mesothelioma. The inhalable gene treatment on the other hand is still far off from being approved and more research needs to be done on the treatment. Once the treatment is approved, we will be another step closer to improving the lives of mesothelioma patients.

Misa Ichikawa et al., “Effects of inhalable gene transfection as a novel gene therapy for non-small cell lung cancer and malignant pleural mesothelioma” Scientif Reports (May 23, 2022). [Link]
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