From the blog

Lack of Treatment Responses for Mesothelioma, Proteins Combat Metastasis

Published: February 13, 2017

Mesothelioma is an incredibly difficult cancer to treat. Its late stage diagnosis coupled with its aggressive nature leaves victims without very much time to combat this fatal cancer. There are a variety of treatment options available to those suffering from mesothelioma, even though there is no cure.

The latest study from Italy’s Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, has found new evidence to suggest that while the long latency period is a factor in why mesothelioma treatments can be non-responsive, there may be other factors that contribute to its overall resistance as well: the cancer drugs are not spreading evenly to the tumors.

The scientists and researchers at the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research used Mass Spectrometry Imaging (MSI) to visualize how chemotherapy treatments are being distributed among the infected tumors. Specifically, scientists tested the chemotherapy drug called Taxol (paclitaxel) which is used to not only treat mesothelioma, but other cancers such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer as well. Mice that had tumors relating to breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and mesothelioma were injected with Taxol and then looked at using MSI.  It was found that out of the three cancers studied, Taxol was distributed more unevenly in mesothelioma than ovarian and breast cancer. It was found that some areas of the tumor had high concentrations of Taxol, while other areas had none at all.

While this is not the result that they were looking for, scientists and researchers are continuing to understand why mesothelioma cancer cells are so much different than other cancer cells in hopes of finding a treatment that is geared specifically toward combating this terrible asbestos-related illness.

Positive advancements on the treatment for mesothelioma are still constantly occurring and give hope to those suffering. Researchers out of the Medical University of South Carolina have found a unique outcome between two proteins that are located on the same gene that could help slow metastasis. The NRP genes are comprised of two proteins; NRP1 and NRP2 with NRP2 comprised of two isoforms (two functionally similar proteins) 2a and 2b. Even though these two isoforms are very similar, each had drastically different effects on cancer metastasis. The researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina found that when NRP2b was induced to the tumor suppressor (SEMA3F) for lung cancer, the tumor did not decrease in size, but in fact actually progressed. When NRP2a was induced and NRP2b taken out, the cancer growth slowed down and chemotherapy had a slightly more positive effect. Medical University of South Carolina researchers concluded that in cases of non-small cell lung cancer, NRP2b in connected to tumor progression and hope to establish the same connection in cases of mesothelioma. The fact that these two proteins located on the same gene have opposite effects on tumor progression warrants further investigation.


Giordano, S. et al, “Heterogeneity of paclitaxel distribution in different tumor models assessed by MALDI mass spectrometry imaging”. Sci. Rep. 6, 39284; doi: 10.1038/srep39284 (2016). [Link]

Medical University of South Carolina. “Preclinical research sheds light on tumor-progression in lung cancer,” ScienceDaily (January 17, 2017). [Link]

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