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An international research team has identified a new molecular target with potential to significantly improve future treatment of cancer malignant pleural mesothelioma.
The recent findings could lead to a drug targeting important genetic inhibitors that often prevent a patient’s own immune system from suppressing mesothelioma tumor growth.
Dr. Antonio Giordano, part of the joint investigation team, said the goal is to reduce mesothelioma mortality with a combination therapy that includes this new target.
“These findings help us define molecular mechanisms that may be key to mesothelioma aggressiveness and progression,” Giordano told The Mesothelioma Center on Asbestos.com. “Knowing which pathways to focus on can improve treatments and patient survival. This is the starting point. “
Giordano, a pathologist and geneticist, is the founder and director of the Sbarro Health Research Organization at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is also an internationally renowned professor of pathology at the University of Siena in Italy.
Oncologist Dr. Raffaella Pippa at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, and Dr. Silvia Boffo at the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research are co-authors of the study.
The Journal of Cellular Physiology published the findings in December.
Clinical trials are the next step
Giordano believes the recent findings will lead to a future clinical trials, where a new treatment combination for mesothelioma could be developed.
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer with no definitive cure. Standard of care mesothelioma treatment today remains systemic chemotherapy, which has not been particularly effective.
Less than a third of mesothelioma patients are eligible for this aggressive surgery, which has also produced mixed results.
Although the development of immunotherapy has shown promise with mesothelioma, it has been effective for only a small percentage of patients using it.
Most specialists believe it takes a combination of therapies – often personalized with genetics – to combat mesothelioma effectively.
“Combination therapies are the most successful at addressing several aberrant pathways, while leaving cancer cells behind without escaping,” Giordano said. “Knowing which molecular pathways are activated in cancers such as mesothelioma is necessary to develop these cocktail therapies.”
Research focused on PP2A protein
Using samples from mesothelioma patients, the research focused on the protein PP2A, which would normally suppress the formation of tumor cells in the body.
Research indicated that two specific protein inhibitors, ANP32E and CIP2A, were significantly increased in the tumor cells.
This led to the production of other inhibitors. Inactivation of the protein is a crucial step in the growth of the tumor cells.
It is believed that targeting ANP32E and CIP2A could stop, or at least slow, the progression of mesothelioma.
Years spent finding new goals
Giordano’s cancer research has focused on identifying new targets and therapies at the molecular level for many years.
He led one previous study that showed how the drug pyrvinium pamoate – once used to fight pinworm parasite infections – could stunt the growth of mesothelioma tumor cells.
It also works by inhibiting a particular gene that stimulates tumor cell proliferation.
“With the advancement of cancer biology and artificial intelligence, depending on the genetic history and genetic mutation, we will soon know which is the right treatment,” Giordano said.
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