Mesothelioma is a fatal lung disease linked to asbestos exposure, with the illness often progressing quickly after initial diagnosis. In fact, many sufferers pass away within a year of being told they are sick.
However, researchers have developed a new compound that could bring hope to people with mesothelioma. Experts at the University of Technology: Sydney (UTS) said the breakthrough stopped mesothelioma tumour growth in between 60 and 80 per cent of mice exposed to asbestos fibres.
Associate Professor Tony George, who co-authored the study, claimed early experiments on human lung cultures also garnered positive results. He said the compound stopped a number of negative effects that asbestos fibres cause, including an increase to harmful oxygen radicals.
“We think the compound could be used through a puffer or a nebuliser, just like those used with asthma, where it could either prevent the fibres taking hold in people exposed to asbestos, or improve the condition for people suffering now,” Dr George added.
According to the UTS, the number of individuals diagnosed with asbestosis and mesothelioma is on the rise, as a new wave of cases beings to show in people who perform home renovations.
The diseases can take as many as 50 years to develop following the initial exposure. Asbestos fibres become trapped in the lung and cause inflammation, sometimes leading to cancers in the mesothelium layer.
Mesothelioma prevention and treatment
The UTS researchers are currently applying for a patent on the compound, which went through two years of cellular level laboratory experiments. The substance was then tested on mice over a 30-week period.
Scientists stated the compound is able to override the immune-suppression qualities associated with asbestos. This allows the body to begin immediately attacking fibres that enter the system.
Dr George’s team is receiving advice from mentors at SPARK Sydney – an initiative designed to boost the commercialisation prospects of scientific developments. SPARK Sydney Director Professor Michael Wallach said innovative partnerships enable patients to benefit from new medicines quicker by smoothing the path to market.
“We selected Dr George’s project because it satisfies an important, unmet need and we think in two years, with our support and mentoring, he should be able to get to a proof of concept that will be taken up by a pharmaceutical company,” Dr Wallach explained.
Unfortunately, molecular discoveries often take decades to progress into a cure, so it could be some time before mesothelioma sufferers will have access to a solution.