A protein which covers mesothelioma cells may play an important role in the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients. It is thought that this may open new doors to treat the asbestos related cancer.


Research carried out by a Spanish team of experts was presented at the European Society of Medical Oncology’s conference in Barcelona Spain earlier this year.

The protein is known as “programed cell death ligand 1” or “PD-L1” for short. This forms part of the immune system and has the affect of suppressing the body’s natural anti-tumour response, restricting the body from attacking mesothelioma. The protein appears to play a key role in how tumours develop and multiply over time and has also been considered when reviewing prognosis for other non-asbestos related cancers as well. The Spanish report is the first to highlight the connection between PD-L1 and mesothelioma survival.

The study was led by Dr Susana Cedres who was assisted by her fellow experts at the Vall D-Hebron Institute of Oncology in Barcelona. The experts tested for the presence of the protein in tissue samples taken from 119 mesothelioma sufferers. The patients were treated for over 11 years from November of 2002 onwards. Most of the mesothelioma patients under the study were men with an average age of 69. The prevalence and exact amount of PD-L1 was compared to the life expectancy of each mesothelioma sufferer.

The results of the study were illuminating in that the experts found that those with the greatest levels of the protein, had the shortest life expectancy overall. On average, mesothelioma patients with the protein apparent, had a life expectancy 11 months shorter than other sufferers who were studied.

All in all, around 20% of the mesothelioma sufferers tested positive for the presence of PD-L1 and its prevalence was not found to be reliant upon smoking habits, extent of asbestos exposure, gender or the disease’s stage.

Whilst the experts’ discovery in relation to the protein in 20% of the patients caused concern to those affected, some positive news may arise as a result of the study. Specifically, it is thought that uncovering this key protein in mesothelioma sufferers may improve the development of more targeted treatments for patients who were found to have PD-L1. Dr Susana Cedres said:-

“The results of our study could offer new treatment to this population of patients, identifying a subset of malignant pleural mesothelioma who expressed PD-:1 and could be treated with targeted therapies to PD-L1.”

The Spanish experts are now looking to recommend that PD-L1 be further assessed as a potential target for immunotherapy, which encompasses the manipulation of a patient’s immune system. Tackling the incurable asbestos related cancer in this way could pave the way for increased success rates in the treatment of mesothelioma.


If you or a family member are suffering from an asbestos disease, contact Asbestos Justice on 0800 038 6767 for expert legal advice.


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