A research study in the UK has identified a drug that may aid in treating mesothelioma, reports an article in the publication Medical News Today. The article cites recent testing of the drug known as HRX9, which has stopped tumor growth in mice who were implanted with human malignant mesothelioma cells.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Universities of Bradford and Surrey in England. The lead researcher was Richard Morgan, a professor at Bradford’s Institute of Cancer Therapeutics. Morgan has noted that he sees much hope attached to this drug, especially given the failure of so many other drugs to stop the spread of mesothelioma, which is an extremely aggressive form of cancer.
Morgan explains that the body has a natural process that allows it to shut down damaged cells, but cancer cells can often overpower this process. “Both the immune system and nearby healthy cells send signals instructing damaged and unhealthy cells to undergo apoptosis, which is like programmed ‘cell suicide.’ But cancer cells have developed a wide range of strategies to ignore these instructions,” he explains. The HRX9 drug can trigger apoptosis.
Other drugs can do this as well but this is the first that seems to work against mesothelioma.
Treating Mesothelioma With Gene Therapy
Specifically, the drug targets the HOX family of genes, a set of 39 genes that appear to be “significantly dysregulated” in individuals who are suffering from mesothelioma. Targeting these genes triggered cell death and, most notably, prevented the growth of the human mesothelioma cells that had been implanted in the mice.
The study also revealed the importance of a particular gene tagged HOXB4, which appears to show which patients are suffering from the most aggressive form of the disease.
So far, the most successful drug used to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma patients in the U.S. has been Alimta©, a chemotherapeutic drug manufactured by Eli Lilly. It has become the drug of choice for most patients but has succeeded in adding little time to the lives of patients with the disease.
That’s why new drug findings are always hailed as hopeful.
“People living with mesothelioma often tell us that among their first reactions to diagnosis is despair at the lack of treatment available. We hope that the progress being made in research we fund will soon provide new treatments and new hope for patients,” notes Ian Jarrold, head of research at the British Lung Foundation, noting that the HRX9 drug represents a significant step in the right direction.
Treatment for mesothelioma can be very expensive as well, and sometimes insurance plans don’t cover all the costs, putting patients in dire financial straits. This is just one of the reasons why obtaining compensation from those responsible for the development of the disease is essential.
Companies that negligently exposed workers to asbestos should be made to pay for their disregard of workers’ health.