From the blog

Scientists Focus on Enzymes and Proteins to Develop New Treatments

Published: June 22, 2016

Scientists are continually exploring new opportunities for drugs to combat mesothelioma and recently, scientists have zeroed in on a particular enzyme that is said to be “overexpressed” in pleural mesothelioma. This enzyme, known as orotate phosphoribosyl transferase (OPRT) is believed to curb the development and spread of mesothelioma which would have a huge impact on treatment development. Scientists tested 15 people with malignant pleural mesothelioma and found that the enzyme OPRT was present; 85% of mesothelioma patients had high levels. Scientists then took a group of patients who were unsuccessful in their treatment Pemetrexed, which is the common chemotherapy drug for mesothelioma, and gave them a drug called S-1. The purpose of S-1 is to “inhibit RNA synthesis through the OPRT pathway” (Strauss, June 2016). Treatment in one case proved to be highly effective and even though it was only one case, it gives hope to the researchers and scientists as they continue to refine treatment.

In other research, scientists have developed a drug called Avelumab that could potentially strengthen the immune system of mesothelioma patients. Avelumab focuses on inhibiting a certain protein called

Programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) that is found on mesothelioma cells. This protein has a huge impact on mesothelioma patients because the protein prevents T cells from working properly, which in turn compromises the immune system. Stopping the production of this protein could help patients gain some strength as their immune system would not be continually weakened.

Even though Avelumab is in the early stages of testing (Phase 1), scientists and researchers are hopeful based upon on results they have seen thus far. Fifty-three patients with pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma were given Avelumab. Results showed that the tumors in 47% of the patients stabilized and approximately 9% of patients saw the tumor actually shrink. Avelumab can hopefully move to Phase II of the trial phase – a phase generally geared toward safety and procedure.

Perhaps the most striking  fact about mesothelioma, which kills more than 3000 people each year, is that it is considered almost wholly preventable. Mesothelioma is almost always directly linked to asbestos exposure. Because of this, mesothelioma is often referred to as “asbestos cancer.” While there is no cure for mesothelioma, scientists and researchers do not rest, and are continually finding new paths to follow that could eventually lead to a cure.

Clinical trials are research studies completed with the help of human volunteers. A key benefit for mesothelioma patients is access to new and novel treatment regimens. Learn more about mesothelioma clinical trials.


Michael Ellis, “Scientists Say Overexpressed Enzyme May be Key to More Effective Mesothelioma Treatment, According to Surviving Mesothelioma,” PRWeb (June 12, 2016) [Link]

Alex Strauss, “Enzyme Study Sheds Light on Potential New Mesothelioma Treatment,” Surviving Mesothelioma (June 10, 2016). [Link]

Alex Strauss, “Investigational Mesothelioma Drug Produces Encouraging Results,” Surviving Mesothelioma (June 8, 2016). [Link]


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