Mesothelioma is a signature cancer of asbestos, affecting the lining of the lungs or abdomen. The cancer is extremely aggressive, and the cancer cells continue to grow and multiply as additional blood vessels develop bringing more food and oxygen to them. Now, researchers believe they have found the key to the way mesothelioma tumors tap into blood vessels opening the door for “treatments to prolong life” for patients.
Researchers from the Flinders University of Adelaide, Australia report they have found that mesothelioma tumors do not wait for blood vessels to form, rather the cancer cells actually “transform into blood vessels” fueling their own growth. According to a Nov. 14 article from ABC Australia, the discovery will better help scientists understand how to treat the insidious asbestos-caused cancer.
“Instead of waiting for the outside of the tissue to grow blood vessels in, the tumour cells themselves branch out, growing blood vessels that reach out into surrounding tissues, tapping into the native vasculature,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Sonja Klebe.
There are cancer treatments available that are designed to inhibit the formation of new blood vessels to tumors, slowing the growth and spread of the tumors. Avastin, sometimes used in mesothelioma treatment, was the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration – approved biological therapy designed to inhibit blood vessel formation.
According to Klebe, however, these treatments target the blood vessels that grow into the cancer as opposed to the other way around. She believes treatments need to look at both approaches to ultimately starve the tumors of blood.
“I think a cure for mesothelioma is not on the horizon in the immediate future, largely because we don’t detect the tumours early enough,” Klebe said.”But I think we are closer to finding treatments that will prolong life, with less impacts on quality of life.”
Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year and nearly the same number die from the cancer. According to the article, twelve Australians die each week from mesothelioma and the country has one of the highest rates of the disease in the world. Currently, there is no cure for the cancer. Finding an effective way to stop tumor growth is needed to improve survival and quality of life in mesothelioma patients.