New Study Finds A Potential New Mesothelioma Gene-targeting Drug

Illustration of mesothelioma research

A recent study revealed some significant findings about a new drug called HRX9. The drug not only stopped tumor growth, but also triggered cell apoptosis, or cell death, in mice implanted with human malignant mesothelioma cells.

Researchers from the Universities of Bradford and Surry in the United Kingdom conducted the study and explained that the body naturally shuts down damaged cells, but cancers can sometimes disguise themselves from that process. The drug HRX9 ensures the cells undergo this process.

“Both the immune system and nearby healthy cells send signals instructing damaged and unhealthy cells to undergo apoptosis, which is like programmed ‘cell suicide.’ But cancer cells have developed a wide range of strategies to ignore these instructions,” said Professor Richard Morgan of Bradford’s Institute of Cancer Therapeutics.

For the actual study, it was proven that the HOX family of 39 genes (that enable fast cell division in growing embryos) is deregulated in malignant mesothelioma. Usually, they’re automatically turned off after embryo development, but unfortunately with many cancers, they’re typically switched back on again.

When Professor Morgan and his team targeted the HOX genes with HXR9, cell suicide resulted and human mesothelioma tumors in mice stopped growing. After three weeks, there was a complete loss of tumor blood vessels and death of the cells. Attacking the HOX genes seems to take down mesothelioma cells’ defense guard.

There have been many drugs developed to trigger apoptosis, or cell suicide as Professor Morgan stated, but only HRX9 has found success specifically working with mesothelioma cancer cells.

This is great news because mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that is resistant to many treatment types. There’s a desperate need for new treatments for victims of this deadly disease.

“People living with mesothelioma often tells us that among their first reactions to diagnosis is despair at the lack of treatment available. We hope that the progress being made in research we fund will soon provide new treatment and new hope for patients,” said Head of Research at the British Lung Foundation, Ian Jarrold, who funded the research.

Finding a treatment for mesothelioma cancer has always been a challenge. About 3,000 people each year are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the U.S. Its rareness makes it difficult to run the kind of research studies needed to compare treatment and determine the ideal therapy at each stage of the disease.

Conventional treatments that currently exist involve surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Often times patients will pair these with alternative treatments for help with controlling pain and maintaining balance and peace within the mind and body.

Another key finding from the research was that HOXBR4 is linked to how aggressive mesothelioma cells are in a patient. The level of the protein was measured in 21 patients and it was proven that the higher the amount, the shorter the time a patient survived.