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Researchers are Trying to Find Ways to Prevent Mesothelioma in Asbestos Exposed Individuals

Published: May 12, 2023

Researchers are trying to find out if mesothelioma can be prevented. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of certain areas of the body including the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles. After asbestos exposure, some people develop mesothelioma over a period of many years.  Asbestos fibers become lodged in the mesothelium which then causes DNA changes in cells. Mesothelioma is a fast growing and aggressive cancer, so when people are diagnosed, it is too late and the cancer has already spread. Since mesothelioma is a hard cancer to treat and is very aggressive, patients do not live a high quality of life and do not live long after diagnosis.

If doctors found a way to prevent mesothelioma in asbestos exposed individuals, high risk populations would not have to worry about developing cancer later in life. Doctors would also be able to focus their attention on other cancers. Asbestos is still prevalent in multiple countries and people are still exposed to the carcinogen daily. Even though it is regulated or banned in certain parts of the world, legacy asbestos is still present. People can easily be exposed to asbestos from an old building or home that asbestos was used in to insulate or make materials stronger.

Currently there is no screening or chemopreventive for people exposed to asbestos, so researchers decided to try to find one. Their research is based on the idea that asbestos causes chronic inflammation and oxidative tissue damage, so anti-inflammatories and antioxidants could be effective in preventing mesothelioma. Researchers decided to look at flaxseed ligands because they are safe, non-toxic compounds that have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Researchers are hypothesizing that flaxseed or enriched flaxseed lignans could acts as safe and nontoxic chenopreventive agents in people exposed to asbestos.

The researchers now need to test their hypothesis to determine the efficacy of the active lignan in flaxseed, secoisolariciresinol diglucoside, in interfering with asbestos-ROS generation, inflammasome activation, and reactive oxygen species generation in macrophages and mesothelial cells in vitro (in a lab). They will also be evaluating wholegrain flaxseed or flaxseed-lignan complex that is given in diets to see if it can prevent acute asbestos induced inflammation and oxidative damage in the mesothelial SV40 T-Antigen and the Nf2+mut;Cdkn2a+/mut asbestos-induced mesothelioma mouse models. They will also be looking at the ability of wholegrain flaxseed or flaxseed derived lignan SDG given in diets to prevent asbestos caused mesothelioma and death in the same mouse models.

Research will utilize information from testing remediated asbestos, animal models, and biomarker research. If the studies show efficacy and safety, the researchers will work to apply research to practice. If found to be safe and effective, continuation of the research would include a toxicity and biomarker trial where people with heavy asbestos exposure would be given flaxseed or the lignan formulation and observations would be made in changes to biomarkers. If there were enough distinct changes, researchers would recommend the wholegrain flaxseed or purified flaxseed lignan component enriched in the lignan SDG to the NIEHS, NCI, or EDRN for a later study of chemoprevention in high-risk populations.

Melpo Christofidou-Solomidou and Stephen M. Albelda, “Project 5: Chemoprevention of Asbestos-Inducing Lung Diseases” University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine [Link]
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