The fight against pleural mesothelioma may find success in gene therapy. A research team from University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland is working toward discovering the key to effective therapy for some mesothelioma sufferers. Genetic research in combating this cancer is not new, and while the results are promising here is one hurdle to cross.
Using the Body’s Natural Defenses to Enhance Cancer-Fighting Drugs
The human body has natural defenses against disease and illness. Researchers from different disciplines have been searching for ways to use these factors in the fight against mesothelioma. The Swiss team seems to have found at least one way to accomplish this.
Within human DNA there resides a gene that should play a key role in potential cancer treatments. The BRCA-1 gene produces a protein called BAP1, which is a tumor suppressor. In some people, the BAP1 protein contains errors that allow malignancy of pleural mesothelioma. The research team reasoned that if they could restore the natural functioning of this protein, they could find a way to treat the cancer.
In cases of mesothelioma, a vital part of the BAP1delta protein called the catalytic domain is missing, leading them to the conclusion that this variant permits the growth of this cancer. Instead of the BRCA-1 gene BAP1 protein acting as a tumor suppressor, it permits the opposite. Naturally, if they could find a way to reverse this, they could find a way for the body to naturally repair DNA damage and fight mesothelial cancer.
By testing the drug, Lynparza (olaparib), the research team found that when the BAP1delta was present along with the complete BAP1 protein, the drug was more effective at killing cancer cells. The isoform of the protein combined with the complete form weakens the cancer’s ability to withstand the killing effect of the drug.
The research team took the approach a step further by adding an experimental drug, Apitolisib (GDC-0980) in combination with the Lynparza, producing better results.
Seventy-seven percent of mesothelioma sufferers have the BAP protein intact. Based on the Swiss team’s research, up to 15 percent also have the BAP1delta, meaning that hundreds of newly diagnosed patients in the U.S. each year could benefit from such a therapy. The only problem is that the Apitolisib has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
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