Researchers have found that inhibiting an enzyme called heparanase can significantly reduce the growth of mesothelioma in mouse models. The full article can be found here, at the American Technion Society.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that mainly affects the lung lining, but can also occur in other areas such as stomach, testicles, and heart. The condition most often occurs in men and people between the ages of 60 and 80 and is usually linked to asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a building material comprised of tiny fibres that can become stuck in the lungs causing damage over time. Its use has been banned in the UK since 1999, and similar restrictions are in place in several other countries. Over 2,600 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. The condition tends to present different symptoms depending on which area of the body is affected. If it is the lungs, people may experience fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pains, coughing, weight loss, and fevers, amongst other symptoms. Mesothelioma treatments tend to focus on slowing the disease progression.
The new research, carried out by scientists at NYU Langone Health and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, has shown that mesothelioma growth can be slowed in mice using the heparanase enzyme. For the study, researchers examined a collection of mesothelioma samples. They found that the enzyme heparanase, which is secreted by the cancer cells, is involved in breaking tissue barriers around growing mesothelioma tumours. As a result, blood vessels then supply the cancer, helping it to grow, as does the release of proteins that support the tumour’s growth. In this way, the heparanase enzyme contributes to the progression of mesothelioma. Heparanase was also correlated with patients’ prognoses: the higher a patient’s levels of the enzyme, the shorter their life expectancy.
By inhibiting the heparanase enzymes, researchers found that tumour growth could be reduced. Mice treated with heparanase inhibitors had longer lives and reduced tumour growth. In fact, the treatment was more effective than the chemotherapy Cisplatin, which is one current treatment option for patients.
Anna is from Cambridge, England and recently finished her undergraduate degree, where she specialised in Biological Anthropology. She has an interest in medicine and enjoys writing. In her spare time she likes to cook, hike, and hang out with cats.
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