For years in the UK, asbestos was used in the construction industry thanks to its versatility and fire-proofing properties. Although the dangers to health started to become known as early as the 1920’s, the use of asbestos continued and peaked in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It was not until 1985 when blue and brown asbestos were banned in the UK, and white asbestos was not banned until 1999.
Asbestos causes a number of conditions including:
- Asbestos-related lung cancer
- Pleural thickening
- Pleural plaques
- Pleural effusions
Despite decades of research into the treatment of these conditions, they are very difficult to treat and there are currently no cures for the conditions. Most research has focused on mesothelioma; this is a cancer that affects the lining of the body’s organs and most commonly affects the lining of the lungs or abdomen. Although treatments have progressed and patients are living for longer after diagnosis, the prognosis is still poor for mesothelioma diagnoses.
The key to long survival after a diagnosis of mesothelioma is reducing the size of the cancer and stopping or slowing the spread of the disease. Recent research has looked at using gene targeting to slow the growth of pleural mesothelioma
Aggressive pleural mesothelioma
There are different forms of mesothelioma and there is a particularly aggressive form of pleural mesothelioma that researchers in Vienna have been trying to treat.
The type of mesothelioma is aggressive in people who have a genetic mutation involving the TERT gene. This gene regulates an enzyme, telomerase, which helps with the growth and division of cells. Researchers have found that the majority of people with mesothelioma produce higher levels of the enzyme than healthy people, however, mesothelioma patients with a mutation of the TERT gene have even higher levels of telomerase.
If someone has high levels of telomerase, the mesothelioma cells are able to grow and divide faster and spread quicker. Therefore, controlling the TERT mutation could help slow the growth and spread of mesothelioma.
Blocking gene activation
Researchers in Vienna have developed a way to block the activation of the mutated TERT gene so that it is unable to send a signal to produce more telomerase. Lead scientist, Dr Walter Berger is hopeful this research will lead to a breakthrough; “If this proves to be the case, the mutation would be both a biomarker for the selection of suitable patients and a therapeutic target – an ideal combination for precision medicine.”
If you require assistance in pursuing an asbestos compensation claim for mesothelioma or other asbestos disease then please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the ‘Contact Us’ page, complete the form and we will be in touch.
Pirker, C., et al. (2020) Telomerase reverse transcriptase promoter mutations identify a genomically defined and highly aggressive human pleural mesothelioma subgroup. Clinical Cancer Research. https://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/26/14/3819
“Researchers identify targeted treatment strategy for malignant pleural mesothelioma”, Life Sciences Medical News, https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200730/Researchers-identify-targeted-treatment-strategy-for-malignant-pleural-mesothelioma.aspx