A California mesothelioma doctor believes it may eventually be possible to predict who is likely to get malignant mesothelioma and even keep it from developing.
Only about 15 percent of people exposed to asbestos will go on to develop mesothelioma or lung cancer, but right now they have no way of knowing who they are. Now scientists at UCLA and other mesothelioma treatment centers around the country, in conjunction with surgical oncologist Dr. Robert Cameron and the Pacific, Heart, Lung & Blood Institute (PHLBI), are gearing up to develop tests that could identify those at highest risk for asbestos-related malignancies. The teams will also test methods of preventing mesothelioma or for finding it in its earliest stage.
Dr. Cameron and the research team at California’s PHLBI have already had some success with breath testing in lung cancer patients. Now the team plans to expand the testing to patients exposed to asbestos and at risk for mesothelioma. The test involves analysis of volatile hydrocarbons exhaled into a tube and collected on a filter.
Successfully identifying which asbestos-exposed individuals are most likely to get mesothelioma opens the door for testing whether a COX-2 inhibitor (such as Celebrex) could keep the cancer from developing in the first place. Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Hawaii reported that mesothelioma is the result of chronic inflammation at the cellular level. COX-2 inhibitors have been shown to help prevent some types of cancer by blocking inflammation. UCLA and PHLBI researchers will partner with Labor Unions to test the effectiveness of COX-2 inhibitors on high risk asbestos-exposed workers.
Because early detection is critical to survival with mesothelioma, the research teams will also be studying the use of protein profiles to find the cancer even before symptoms develop. Indentifying which proteins are produced by mesothelioma cells can help scientists form a mesothelioma ‘fingerprint’. The project will involve collecting blood and urine from mesothelioma patients in all stages of the disease as well as from asbestos-exposed individuals and healthy volunteers. The findings could lead to a simple blood test to identify the mesothelioma ‘fingerprint’ at an early stage while there are more options for effective treatment.
PHLBI Medical Research Overview, Pacific, Heart, Lung & Blood Institute