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Solution to “Tumor Growth Paradox” May Lead to New Approach in Treating Mesothelioma

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New research has shown that while for years scientists have been trying to find a treatment for cancer that forces cancer cell death, they may have been unknowingly encouraging the cancer cells to spread instead. In a new study, researchers found that by targeting resolvins this “tumor growth paradox” may be resolved. This finding could impact ongoing cancer research for all types of cancer, including mesothelioma.

Researchers from the Institute of Systems Biology (ISB) in Seattle, Washington, report that when cancer cells are killed off “cellular debris” is left behind that can lead to an inflammatory response from the immune system, according to a Dec. 1 article in Medical News Today. The inflammation can actually put the immune system into overdrive where it is roped into stimulating more cancer cell growth.

Lead researcher Dr. Sui Huang believes researchers need to look beyond simply finding the best, fastest way to kill cancer cells, according to a press release from ISB announcing the findings. Using an analogy of comparing attacking cancer cells with military generals fighting the enemy, Dr. Huang said, “What politicians and military leaders have long learned, cancer research is now realizing: Look beyond just making killing more efficient. This new vista may open ample new opportunities for gentler, less toxic non-killing – but effective – anti-cancer drugs.”

The research focused on using resolvins, or natural compounds that stop inflammation, to clear out the debris left behind by the cells. Building on previous research that showed resolvins prompted immune cells “to eat up the dead cell debris” the team speculated it would be effective when used to fight cancer. Using mouse models they found that when mice carrying “debris-induced tumors” were treated with resolvins it “drastically blocked growth of mouse tumors that chemotherapy failed to inhibit.” They concluded that combining it with chemotherapy “showed maximal effect in animal tumors treated with standard drugs.”

Successfully halting cancer growth is critical for increasing survival in all cancer patients, and especially in mesothelioma patients who have a grim prognosis. Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer caused by past asbestos exposure that is notorious for fighting off even the most seasoned cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation.

“These results demonstrate that enhancing endogenous clearance of tumor cell debris is a new therapeutic target that may complement cytotoxic cancer therapies,” the researchers concluded.

Each year, nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma. There is no known cure for the disease.

Read the study in the Nov. 30 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

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