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Hope for people with mesothelioma

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a very rare type of cancer that affects the covering of the lung or abdomen. It is often caused by exposure to asbestos and although it affects the lungs, is actually very different to lung cancer.

New research findings

We are funding Professor Stephano Biffo Italy investigating the protein eIF6 and its role in cancer.  He recently published findings in the journal Oncotarget that could potentially help people with mesothelioma.

Could a drug currently used in patients work on mesothelioma?

In the paper he and his coauthors, among them Annarita Miluzio and Stefania Oliveto at INGM and Luciano Mutti, now at University of Salford, showed that mesothelioma lung cancer cells contain high levels of the active ‘phosphorylated’ form of eIF6.

The team decided to test a drug called Enzastaurin which is currently in clinical trials for a range of other cancer types including prostate, lymphoma brain and bowel. Treating these mesothelioma cells with Enzastaurin, deactivated the eIF6, by decreasing the phosphorylation.

This deactivation caused a reduction in the growth of the mesothelioma cells and also reduced cancer spread.  Normally cancer cells metabolise food (glucose) much more rapidly than normal cells.  The team discovered that this decrease in cell growth and reduction in cancer spread was caused by the Enzastaurin slowing down the cancer cells metabolism.

Since eIF6 phosphorylation is accompanied by its overexpression (increased activity of the eIF6 gene), it is not predicted that Enzastaurin alone will be enough for most patients.  The team are now developing new strategies for eIF6 inhibition that will be first tested in mice.

What does all this mean?

Professor Biffo told us “We conclude that eIF6 plays an important role in mesothelioma lung cancer growth.  Targeting it with drugs that are able to reduce eIF6 activity is a plausible way to treat these kinds of tumours in the future.  More effort will now be put into developing new compounds that could be potential drugs.”

We want to share more discoveries like Professor Biffo’s.  To do this we are continuing to fund cancer research all over the world into all cancer types, no matter how rare, in our quest to stop lives being cut short by cancer. To help, please to text WORLDWIDE to 70004 to donate £10.

Further information
Image above shows a human tissue sample of malignant mesothelioma stained for eIF6 (brown). Arrows point at the nucleoli (the control centres of the cell) within tumour cells which are stained very dark brown due to the presence of lots of eIF6. Stromal (non-tumour tissue) has no eIF6 and so is not stained. Bottom right, scale bar, 20 microns.

The original paper can be found here.