Mesothelioma is notoriously difficult to treat. Thanks to ongoing research people are living for longer, with a better quality of life.

There are several treatments available to mesothelioma patients and whilst these can improve quality of life and life expectancy, there is yet to be a definitive cure for mesothelioma.

Surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy?

A lot of patients opt for surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. The surgery aims to remove as much of the cancer as possible while the chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy prevents the spread or regrowth of the cancer.

The study

Researchers from the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have been working on another treatment to further extend the survival rate of mesothelioma patients after surgery. The treatment is a spray-on biodegradable gel that boosts the immune system.

Currently the treatment has only been tested on mice with advanced melanoma but the results are promising with around half of the mice not having recurrence of cancer after surgery.

Cancer cells release a protein, CD47, which protects them from the body’s immune system. The spray-on gel contains calcium carbonate which has been loaded with immunotherapy drugs which stop cancer cells from releasing this protein and allow the immune system to fight the cancer. When the cancer cells are attacked, they cannot reseed and so the cancer cannot spread.

The lead researcher, Zhen Gu said of the results, “Around 90% of people with cancerous tumors end up dying because of tumor recurrence or metastasis. Being able to develop something that helps lower this risk for this to occur and has low toxicity is especially gratifying.”

What do the results mean?

Although, so far, the gel has only been successfully tested with mice, the results are positive. Mesothelioma is a notoriously difficult cancer to treat and while surgery is possibly the treatment that yields the best results, it does carry the risk of the cancer reseeding and spreading. If the spray-on gel can be developed and used following mesothelioma surgery, the survival rate of patients post-surgery will only get better.

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Chen, Q, et al, “In situ sprayed bioresponsive immunotherapeutic gel for post-surgical cancer treatment”, December 10, 2018, Nature Nanotechnology,

Gu, Zhen, “Sprayable gel could help the body fight off cancer after surgery”, December 10, 2018,

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