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Genome Sequencing in Mesothelioma: The Key to a Cure?

20161721_dna2A fast method of DNA mutational analysis known as Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) could be the key to understanding the genetic roots of deadly malignant mesothelioma.

Cancer researchers at the Mayo Clinic have just released their findings on the technique they say could be used to drastically improve the effectiveness of mesothelioma therapy in the future.

Mesothelioma Patients and Genomic Analysis

Although mesothelioma is triggered by asbestos exposure, as with most cancers, there is also a genomic component to the disease, meaning that mesothelioma patients  either have or develop mutations in their DNA.

The new Mayo Clinic study focuses on NGS (also known as high-throughput sequencing) as a tool for quickly but meticulously combing through a patient’s DNA to find mutations that may underlie pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma.

Identifying Genetic Mutations in Mesothelioma

To conduct their study, the team selected 11 mesothelioma patients (7 with pleural mesothelioma and 4 with peritoneal mesothelioma) for NGS sequencing. The median age of the study participants was 65 and most were men.

After a total of 236 cancer-related mutations were analyzed, the team found that 86 percent of the patients with pleural mesothelioma had detectable mutations. The same was true for half of the peritoneal mesothelioma patients.

“The families of BAP1 (36%), CDKNA2A/B (27%) and NF2 (27%) represented the most frequently mutated genes,” reports coauthor Gamze Ugurluer, MD, in the journal Anticancer Research.

Typical of mesothelioma patients, the study participant group had a median overall survival of 20.8 months. About 40 percent of subjects were still alive at 24 months.  

Mutational Analysis and the Future of Mesothelioma Treatment

While NGS sequencing cannot, by itself, improve mesothelioma outcomes, the new study suggests that it could impact the future of mesothelioma treatment by revealing potential new therapeutic targets in the DNA of patients.

When scientists understand which genes are mutated, it gives them a starting point for treating this intractable cancer and potentially improving its grim prognosis.

According to Dr. Ugurluer, “These findings will help in the development of new screening tools and targeting therapies, and in turn impact the standard-of-care and potentially lengthen disease control and survival periods in the future.”


Ugurluer, G, “Genome-based Mutational Analysis by Next Generation Sequencing in Patients with Malignant Pleural and Peritoneal Mesothelioma”, May 2016, pp. 2331-2338

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