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Developing targeted treatments for mesothelioma – the asbestos cancer

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that usually starts in the layers of tissue that cover the lungs. The most common cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos and incidence is much higher in populations that work closely with or live near asbestos. Mesothelioma is often diagnosed very late on in the disease when treatments such as radio and chemotherapy are ineffective. Survival rates for mesothelioma are poor, with only about 15 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women surviving for more than 5 years after their diagnosis.

Dr Carsten Hansen, based at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, is interested in a molecular signalling network found in cells called “The Hippo Pathway”. This network of proteins helps to convey messages around the cell that tell the cell to grow and divide. When Hippo Pathway signals are sent out too much it can contribute to make cells cancerous.

Dr Hansen and his team are studying the Hippo network of proteins to understand exactly what goes wrong in mesothelioma cancer cells. Using this information, and building on previous research, they plan to find potential drug molecules, which target aspects of the Hippo network that might one day provide therapeutic benefit for patients