Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos, it is difficult to diagnose and currently there is no cure for the disease. There are a number of treatments for mesothelioma including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy. Whilst these treatments cannot banish the disease completely, they aim to reduce the tumour mass and therefore reduce symptoms, allowing for a better quality of life for the patient.
To find a cure for mesothelioma, you need to understand the disease and researchers at John Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have been working on this, looking at how mesothelioma spreads.
Mesothelioma is most commonly found in the lining of the lungs or abdomen, this is pleural mesothelioma or peritoneal mesothelioma. It can be found in other parts of the body such as the heart and testes, but this is rare.
The disease is difficult to diagnose and it is often not until the tumours are well established that the patient starts to suffer symptoms and seek medical help. Mesothelioma can spread to other areas of the body, this is known as metastasis. Once the cancer has metastasised it is even more difficult to treat.
How does cancer spread?
The researchers used breast cancer cells for their study and it is believed that the results would be similar for mesothelioma.
They built a 3D blood vessel and got breast cancer cells to grow near to it. They had thought that the cancer cells would break away and use the blood vessel’s walls to infiltrate the blood vessel. However, what they saw was the cancer cells taking over a patch of the wall of the blood vessel so they could be released straight in the bloodstream and travel to other areas of the body.
They wrote; “What we saw was that a piece of existing tumor would take over a neighboring blood vessel wall, putting cancer cells in direct contact with the circulation, and that the cancer cells could do so in a matter of hours. They didn’t have to invade past the blood vessels; they became the blood vessels, and could just release cancer cells there.”
Helpful for future research
The study may be helpful to other mesothelioma researchers, particularly those who are looking at treatments to prevent the spread of the cancer.
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Vanesa L. Silvestri, Elodie Henriet, Raleigh M. Linville, Andrew D. Wong, Peter C. Searson, Andrew J. Ewald. A tissue-engineered 3D microvessel model reveals the dynamics of mosaic vessel formation in breast cancer. Cancer Research, 2020; canres.1564.2019 DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-1564