For those with asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the outer lining of the lung, the lack of effective long-term treatment is a persistent source of frustration and anxiety. This all may soon change. A new compound that works in preventing the growth of mesothelioma tumors has recently been discovered. This new compound works alongside our bodies’ genetic material, reflecting a more modern approach to fighting the disease.
This newly-discovered compound comes from research conducted at The University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. So far, research has been conducted in pre-clinical lab trials which involved testing the chemical on mice. When lab mice were exposed to asbestos, and this treatment was administered, the development of mesothelioma tumors was arrested in 60-80% of cases. Needless to say, these results are very promising.
The beauty of this treatment is that it could both provide a preventative effect and treat those who have already displayed symptoms of mesothelioma.
Potential for Preventative Treatment
One frustrating aspect of mesothelioma is its uniquely long latency period. After a person is exposed to asbestos, the development of mesothelioma symptoms can take anywhere from 20-50 years. This characteristic of the disease is currently seen as one of the contributing factors to the lack of effective long-term treatment. This new compound, however, has the potential to use this latency period to its advantage.
Often, it is possible for a patient to conclude that they may have been exposed to asbestos. Those working in certain trades have a higher incidence of asbestos-related diseases. If you or a loved one has worked in the U.S. Navy, manufacturing or automotive facilities, the construction trade, or has lived near an asbestos mine, there is greater risk. It is important to remember that family members can be exposed to asbestos indirectly. Asbestos fibers can travel on clothing or other items and find their way into new surroundings.
Dr. Tony George, lead researcher on this project, has already envisioned the medical treatment form in which this compound could appear, hopefully within the next five years. “We think the compound could be used through a puffer or a nebulizer, just like those used with asthma, where it could either prevent the fibers taking hold in people exposed to asbestos, or improve the condition for people suffering now,” he says.
New Study Provides Hope
Often, the general public is unaware of just how much time molecular biology research can take from inception to clinical trial. In the two years leading up to the pre-clinical trials, Dr. George and his team conducted extensive research with this compound on the cellular level. In fact, the compound’s early positive influence on human lung cell cultures is what led to the more recent pre-clinical trials.
We need to re-think how we approach and treat asbestos exposure and asbestos-related diseases. The research in Sydney, Australia seems to be doing this with its focus on genetics and prevention. Of this genetic element, Dr. George says: “At a genetic level, the compound short-circuits the pathways to cell death typically caused by asbestos fibers.”
This new way of approaching asbestos-related diseases provides hope for those who are already suffering. At a time when many treatments for mesothelioma are limited, we should remind ourselves that new research studies are being conducted, and eventually one of these studies will change the landscape of mesothelioma treatment forever. Perhaps this study will be the one.