After doctors diagnose a case of malignant mesothelioma, they may combine several different treatment approaches in order to maximize your ability to fight the disease. If you are eligible for surgery, physicians will physically excise the cancerous tissue from your body. They may also use both radiation and chemotherapy to help you battle this illness at the cellular level.
Even though doctors have several tools at their disposal, scientists are still trying to improve the prognoses of individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma. At Mesothelioma Circle, we keep track of the latest developments so that we can help you stay informed when it comes to researchers’ progress.
One potentially exciting avenue of study is gene therapy. Recently, one team of scientists from Japan reviewed the current state of research to evaluate gene therapy as a potential approach to mesothelioma, as published in the journal BioMed Research International.
Therapy injects messages into your cells
In each of your cells is a cluster of molecules known as genes, which contain the directions that your cells need to live and perform their tasks. Cancer can develop if something goes wrong with the process in which your genes’ instructions are translated.
The National Cancer Institute describes gene therapy as a form of medicine in which genetic material is inserted into your cells in order to fight illnesses, including malignant diseases.
When it comes to cancer, there are several ways that gene therapy can be helpful. For example, missing or altered genes can be replaced with copies that work. Additionally, doctors can insert other genes into cells that contain a wide range of instructions. This includes the stimulation of the immune system, the induction of cell suicide, the prevention of abnormal blood vessel growth or increased sensitivity to chemotherapy or radiation.
Typically, these genes enter the cells after being delivered by viruses that are specially engineered in the laboratory. These viruses are generally harmless.
Scientists are learning about gene therapy and mesothelioma
There are several clinical trials taking place right now to evaluate the use of gene therapy, which is not yet widely available. Mesothelioma is among the diseases that scientists are eyeing for gene therapy.
In Japan, researchers note that mesothelioma often includes defects in certain genes that are supposed to induce apoptosis, or cell death, in case a cell exhibits behavior that may lead to the formation of tumors. If these genes are defective, cancer is more likely to develop.
While no clinical trials to evaluate gene therapy for mesothelioma have taken place yet, scientists are trying to determine the best way to go about it. They need to answer several questions, including how to effectively infect a significant number of cells in order to deliver the genes that would spur apoptosis, and how to select patients who would make the best candidates for this strategy.
“Currently gene therapy and virotherapy are still one of the treatment strategies under investigations, but accumulating clinical data suggest that it can produce antitumor effects which have not been achieved by other therapies. Mesothelioma is obviously one of the target tumors for gene therapy, and in fact several clinical studies with oncolytic viruses are now in progress,” the researchers wrote. “Gene therapy currently remains an experimental approach for mesothelioma treatments, but the preceding clinical trials provided many points to be considered for the future application of gene therapy.”
It is likely that gene therapy would be administered as part of a combination therapy instead of by itself.
The Environmental Working Group estimates that mesothelioma claims the lives of more than 2,500 people in the U.S. every year, and the incidence of the disease will only continue to increase for the next decade or so. If scientists can perfect gene therapy, doctors and their patients will have a powerful weapon at their disposal.