University of Sydney Professor Develops Potential New Mesothelioma Treatment

Illustration of mesothelioma research

Dr. Glen Reid is the Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Medical School who is researching a new treatment for mesothelioma cancer patients. Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos and affects thousands of people every year.

The highest rates of mesothelioma cancer occur in Australia, Belgium, and Great Britain with an average of 30 cases per million people. In fact, the West Cape of Australia is among the highest of these rates of incidence.

After years of research, Dr. Reid came up with TargomiRs, which utilizes tiny cells packed with a microRNA that’s deficient in mesothelioma. The small cells are then administered to a patient to restore their body’s natural tumor-suppressing mechanisms.

Dr. Reid originally discovered this through work with preserved tumors of mesothelioma patients at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, which were lacking genetic materials known as microRNA 15 and 16. He hypothesized these genes could suppress tumors and tested a synthetic version on mice. It worked and was then set-up as a human trial with one patient experiencing dramatically successful results.

“We have found an amazing inhibition of tumor growth. The results were far in excess of what have been seen with other experimental therapies in this model, and we are very excited about it,” said Dr. Reid.

The one patient in particular who saw excellent results had his tumors practically disappear. His name is Bradley Selmon, aged 51 years old, who has had mesothelioma cancer since 2013.

Selmon was exposed to asbestos through numerous years employed as a plumber, cutting fibro sheets and working on more than 100 public houses. “We wore masks, but we didn’t know there was any danger with it. We just wore them because the dust was a nuisance,” said Selmon.

The trial saved Selmon’s life and his oncologist, Dr. Steven Kao of the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Cancer Centre in Sydney, applauding the results. “If it works in more patients, this treatment has the potential for a paradigm shift in the management of other treatment-resistant tumors,” said Dr. Kao.

“The pain stopped. All of a sudden I could yawn without restriction. Now, I can walk up steep steps…anything I want do,” said Selmon. Results showed his lung function as “pretty normal.”

“To see a tumor regress to more or less invisible in a late stage patient is remarkable,” said Dr. Reid. It only took eight treatments for X-rays to reveal how the tumors has shrunk.

TargomiRs is still in its early stages and many more tests need to be done to determine the safety and optimal dose for humans, but the work and results so far have been published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.