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Peritoneal Mesothelioma: Genome Sequencing Paves the Way for Personalized Treatments

28185940_genesmesotheliomaGenomic medicine experts in the U.S. and Canada have completed a key step in improving the understanding and treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma.

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare and often lethal malignancy that grows on the peritoneal membrane that surrounds the abdominal organs. Although its cause (exposure to asbestos) is well documented, treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma remains a challenge, in part because so much about the molecular biology of the disease is still a mystery.

But now, thanks to the efforts of scientists at the University of British Columbia, the British Columbia Cancer Agency, and PhenoPath Lab in Seattle, Washington, understanding of peritoneal mesothelioma is taking a dramatic leap forward.

Using cells from two patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, these researchers mapped the entire genome sequence of the disease for the first time. Whole genome sequencing can reveal underlying molecular alternations and mutations present in certain diseases, and can open the door for a more personalized approach to treatment.

Some of the information gleaned from the genome sequencing was not a surprise; the scientists found mutations on several known mesothelioma-related genes.

But there was also a great deal of new data gained. One of patients was revealed to have a previously unknown mutation that was associated with a “favorable outcome.” That patient responded well to treatment, despite having the more aggressive sarcomatoid variety of mesothelioma and tumors in multiple locations. The information could mean a more positive prognosis for other patients with the same mutation.

 “The Personalized OncoGenomics initiative at the British Columbia Cancer Agency provides a unique opportunity to learn how to best analyze, interpret and apply rapidly emerging molecular information in the clinic,” writes lead investigator Brandon Sheffield of the University of British Columbia. “This approach to personalized medicine is in its infancy, and there is much to be learned from the wealth of molecular data generated, particularly in rare tumor types.”

In addition to the whole genome sequence, the researchers created expression profiles for each patient’s RNA, another possible target for mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment. Genomics is a new branch of medicine that involves using a patient’s genetic information to create personalized treatment plans. Oncogenomics is the application of this information to the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma and other cancers.


Sheffield, BS, “Personalized oncogenomics: clinical experience with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma using whole genome sequencing”, March 23, 2015, PLoS One

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