• Mesothelioma Treatment Aimed at BAP1 May Prove Beneficial
  • November 26, 2015
  • Law Firm: Waters Kraus LLP - Dallas Office
  • Half of all mesothelioma patients could benefit from new studies by researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) in New York. The doctors are looking at mutations in a gene called BAP1. The mutations have been found in a number of cancers including mesothelioma, clear cell renal cell carcinoma and the hereditary form of uveal melanoma, a cancer of the eye. Marc Ladanyi, the MSK experimental pathologist who discovered BAP1 mutations in 2011, has observed that most mesothelioma patients do not inherit the mutation from their parents, it develops on its own. BAP1 mutations reportedly are found in 50 to 60 percent of all mesothelioma tumors.

    Memorial Sloan Kettering Doctors Study BAP1 and Mesothelioma in Experiments with Mice

    Pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in the lining of the lung, is the most common type of the disease. Exposure to asbestos is the only established cause of pleural mesothelioma. In most cases, the disease is not diagnosed until it is already in the advanced stage. By then, mesothelioma is very aggressive and difficult to treat. There is no known cure for mesothelioma.

    MSK researchers believe there may be new reason for hope, however. MSK physician-scientist Ross Levine has authored a new study published in Nature Medicine describing research on mice with a mutated form of BAP1. When mutations occur, BAP1 becomes inactivated and the levels of an enzyme called EZH2 correspondingly rise. This allows mesothelioma cells to grow unchecked. MSK researchers found that blocking EZH2 in mice could affect the growth of mesothelioma tumors.

    Drugs that inhibit EZH2 have already been developed to treat forms of cancer other than mesothelioma. And those drugs are already being tested in clinical trials. MSK researchers have teamed up with Epizyme, a biotechnology firm, to see whether the current EZH2 inhibitor drugs might also work for mesothelioma patients. The goal is to conduct clinical trials involving patients with mesothelioma. If the drugs are effective, they could become part of the treatment regimen for about half of all those battling this devastating disease.