Scientists in Italy found that a protein called osteopontin is important to the growth of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is rare, with only 2,000 cases in the United States each year. The disease occurs more often in men than women. It can take decades after asbestos exposure for symptoms of the cancer to start affecting a patient.
Mesothelioma is often difficult for doctors to treat. They usually create treatment plants that involve surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. But there is still much that we do not know about mesothelioma, including the best ways to shrink tumors and improve survival.
Key Protein in Mesothelioma Growth
In a study soon to be published in Frontiers in Immunology, scientists wanted to better understand how the cancer progresses. They focused on a protein called osteopontin and whether it could be found in tumor samples from mesothelioma patients.
The scientists found that more osteopontin could be found in tumors compared to normal tissues. It was mainly created by mesothelioma cells. The levels of osteopontin in the blood were also higher in mesothelioma patients and linked to a worse prognosis.
However, when mesothelioma patients were treated with immunotherapy, the levels of osteopontin did not change very much. It didn’t change even in some patients who showed a partial response to the treatment.
This was an interesting finding. So the scientists conducted some experiments on mesothelioma cells from mice. They discovered that turning off the gene for osteopontin reduced tumor growth in mice.
Based on these results, scientists believe that osteopontin causes mesothelioma cells to grow. By stopping the creation of osteopontin in cancer cells, doctors could slow down the growth of tumors in mesothelioma patients. These results have the potential to improve the effectiveness of treatments for mesothelioma.
Digifico E, Erreni M, Mannarino L, et al. Important functional role of the protein Osteopontin in the progression of malignant pleural mesothelioma [published online ahead of print, 2023 May 29]. Front Immunol. 2023;14. Doi: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2023.1116430/abstract