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Researchers are Targeting Fibrosis to Improve Mesothelioma Care

Published: March 25, 2022

Researchers have found that targeting lung fibrosis can help people with mesothelioma. People with mesothelioma usually suffer from fibrosis, which is the stiffening of tissue surrounding tumors. Certain drugs to treat mesothelioma are not very effective because the fibrosis prevents the drugs from penetrating the tumor. It also prevents the immune system from detecting rogue cancer cells. A new study is looking to fix this problem by looking at a group of proteins called lysyl oxidases. These proteins are associated with fibrosis in many cancers including mesothelioma. If doctors find a way to target this group of proteins, mesothelioma treatment could be improved.

Fibrosis is a problem for cancer patients because it blocks treatments from getting to tumors. Certain treatments like chemotherapy and immunotherapy already have a limited benefit for patients with mesothelioma, so fibrosis blocking these treatments makes it even harder to treat the cancer. Fibrosis is caused by a buildup of collagen in surrounding tumor tissue, which makes tissue denser than standard tissue. This affects drug delivery to cancer tissue. Researchers believe that controlling lysyl oxidases, which are proteins that control the production of collagen, could help mesothelioma patients. Pleural thickening that occurs from mesothelioma is believed to be from fibrotic tissue since the surrounding tissue is much denser and stiffer compared to healthy tissue. Researchers believe that targeting this symptom will help patients respond better to treatment.

Researchers believe that they can target fibrosis and delay mesothelioma tumor growth. When doctors see an increase in fibrosis and collagen cells in patients, the patients usually have a poorer prognosis. Collagen cells can also be a biomarker for detecting mesothelioma. Scientists want to target fibrosis as a part of treating mesothelioma because they found lysyl oxidases are present in tissue and cell lines of pleural mesothelioma.

Fibrosis causing proteins can become uncontrolled while treating cancer, leading to patients not surviving very long with mesothelioma. Researchers want to target fibrosis so they can change this. Lysyl oxidase blockers are one option to counter fibrosis, which would help people respond better to chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments. A lowered fibrotic response would also help the immune system fight the cancer, improving survival and quality of life in patients. The protein inhibitors could also potentially prevent cancer metastasis (tumors traveling and forming in other parts of the body). Preclinical studies need to be performed to find how lysyl oxidase benefits patients and figure out how safe it is in them.

Lara Perryman and Steven G. Gray, “Fibrosis in Mesothelioma: Potential Role of Lysyl Oxidases” Cancers (January 18, 2022). [Link]
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