Infections Can Help Fight Mesothelioma, Study Suggests

infections can help fight mesothelioma

There is new evidence to support the idea that infections can help fight mesothelioma. 

Researchers at a Belgium University say mice with mesothelioma had slower-growing tumors and lived longer when they were injected with a virus

The research team used a mouse virus called lactate dehydrogenase-elevating virus. The new study suggests that infections can help fight mesothelioma by activating cancer-killing immune system cells. 

The study could help doctors understand how to use the immune system to combat malignant mesothelioma in human patients. 

The Immune System and Mesothelioma

The immune system is constantly on the lookout for cells that could turn into cancer. When natural killer cells recognize a potential mesothelioma cell, they destroy it. 

But mesothelioma cells produce proteins that make it harder for the immune system to find them. This is one of the reasons that mesothelioma tumors are able to grow unchecked. 

Researchers theorize that infections can help fight mesothelioma by reactivating natural killer cells. 

How Infections Can Help Fight Mesothelioma

The Belgian study is not the first to show that instigating infections can help fight mesothelioma. But this study goes deeper in explaining the mechanism behind the effect. 

Researchers injected the lactate dehydrogenase-elevating virus into mice along with AB1 mouse mesothelioma cells. The goal was to measure the impact of the virus on mesothelioma development and growth

“Acute infection with lactate dehydrogenase-elevating virus strongly reduced in vivo early AB1 mesothelioma growth and death resulting from cancer development,” writes study author Mohamed Mandour of Université Catholique de Louvain in Brussels. 

The next question for the research team was how the virus produced this effect. 

Viruses as Information Carriers

Fighting cancer with viruses is not a new concept. Viruses make handy information carriers because they are small enough to get inside cells. 

Scientists have used altered viruses to introduce new DNA into cancer cells and immune system cells and change cell behavior. In these cases, scientists change the virus so that it cannot make a person sick. 

But the Belgian scientists were not trying to prevent infection. Their goal was to start an immune response to understand how infections can help fight mesothelioma.  

In the new study, the virus did not harm the mesothelioma cells. It was the natural killer cells that did the damage. The virus prompted the NK cells to produce Gamma-interferon, which kept the cancer cells in check.

The researchers conclude that certain kinds of viral infections can help fight mesothelioma. They alter the “microenvironment” or the area around where the tumor exists and make it harder for the tumor to grow.


Mandour, M, et al, “Lactate Dehydrogenase-Elevating Virus Enhances Natural Killer Cell-Mediated Immunosurveillance of Mouse Mesothelioma Development”, May 7, 2020, Infectious Agents and Cancer,

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