New way to group pleural mesothelioma patients could lead to personalised treatments

9th February 2023

Our researchers in Scotland have discovered a way to separate patients with mesothelioma based on differences between their cells. Dr Carsten Hansen and his team, based at the University of Edinburgh, believe their work could lead to improved treatment options for patients.

Pleural mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer linked to asbestos exposure. Patients with the disease have very limited options for treatment, and sadly only half of patients diagnosed can expect to survive longer than one year after diagnosis.

Patients with pleural mesothelioma are often diagnosed at a later stage, when the cancer is more progressed and difficult to treat. In fact, there are no curative treatments available at this stage.

Click here to learn more about mesothelioma

To find a way to help these patients, Dr Hansen and his team analysed the biggest dataset on pleural mesothelioma patients to date. They found that it was possible to separate the patients out into groups based on this data.

This is an important finding, as it suggests that patients with pleural mesothelioma may benefit from being treated differently. This is known as precision medicine, or a personalised medicine approach, whereby the specific treatment of cancer is based on the precise type of cancer a patient has.


Pictured (left to right): Dr Richard Cunningham, Dr Carsten Hansen, Krishna Purohit

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First, Dr Hansen and his team initially identified that patients’ groups with specific mutations had a worse prognosis. For their next step, they wanted to identify what makes the cancer types of these groups of patients different. They therefore engineered non-cancerous cells to give them the mutations found in those patients. In doing so, they have created cancer cells specific to those groups, and established a new way to study patient specific types of pleural mesothelioma.

This important breakthrough could be an important first step towards new personalised treatment approaches for these patients, and be a useful tool to understand mesothelioma better.

Using this new way of studying pleural mesothelioma, Dr Hansen and his team have already found that loss of a protein called NF2 allow for uncontrolled tumour growth. This is crucial progress towards real change for patients with mesothelioma, including new, targeted and personalised treatments.

Scientist Carsten Hansen Dr Carsten Hansen, Corresponding author on the study
This funding has allowed us to build research momentum and focus further on this terrible disease. Keep supporting Worldwide Cancer Research, they are a great charity, who support bold discovery-based cancer research.

Breakthroughs like this mean everything to people like Tamron, who was only 21 years old when she was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma.

She was once told she might only have one year to live - 15 years on, Tamron wants to inspire others to have hope in cancer research.

Read Tamron's story

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