Research Reveals Cancer-Suppressing Protein

Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report of a recent breakthrough by researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute involving a powerful protein called p53. More than half of human cancers, including mesothelioma, are associated with defects in the gene for p53.

The Australian researchers dissected the processes that are controlled by p53 to discover how and if this protein could be used to suppress cancer development. Scientists believe the most important processes activated by p53 are its ability to control cell survival and division. Cancer cells, for example, in patients with genetically mutated p53, become long-lived and divide uncontrollably, which are key features of cancer formation and spread.

Previously, it was assumed that this cell survival and division constituted the most important functions p53 used to prevent cancer. The team of researchers set out to definitively find out whether this assumption was true. The team compared cells lacking p53 with cells in which the protein was not able to regulate cell division and survival.

With the recent developments in gene development and knowledge, scientists are able to identify the exact proteins activated by p53 to stop cell division and promote cell death. In their experiments, researchers were able to remove these proteins from cells to completely block p53’s ability to stop cell division and death. Much to their surprise, p53 was still able to prevent cancer formation, even without being able to prevent the cancer cell’s death and division.

This led scientists to conclude that p53 is probably a collection of several proteins with numerous critical functions. Contrary to popular belief, researchers hypothesized that p53 did not function solely to stop cells from dividing, but instead acted as a repair mechanism for damaged DNA. Looking forward, this new knowledge may be exploited to develop improved and more successful cancer treatments.

Mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos is a global problem, which is why research departments around the world are working towards breakthroughs in every facet of mesothelioma cancers. One team in Zurich, Switzerland recently evaluated the two most standard imaging systems used to see a variety of cancers, including mesothelioma.

Researchers examined PET/CT and PET/MRI side-by-side. PET stands for positron emission tomography, and is a nuclear imaging technique which produces 3D images of specific processes within the body. Patients undergoing this imaging are given a radioactive tracer, which the PET detects and traces in bodily tissue. The radioactive tracer highlights where the metabolic activity is highest in the body, which is typically in the cancer cells. PET technology is currently the most common mode used to diagnose and stage mesothelioma and other difficult cancers.

MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) are another variance of nuclear imaging, using powerful magnets to produce images of atoms in the body. Its benefit is that it does not use ionizing radiation, which can be harmful in the human body. Conversely, PET/CTs acquire detailed pictures of anatomical structures, such as the bones and soft tissue, using radiation. When used together, metabolic changes can be seen and examined.

Researchers evaluated more than 60 patients undergoing both PET/MRI and PET/CT to detect mesothelioma or another cancer. They measured the exact maximum diameters of the cancers shown on both the CT and MRI images, and then measured overall differences in each method’s ability to detect an obvious cancer lesion.

Specifically in cancers of the lung, PET/CT was found to be significantly better at detection of the cancer than PET/MRI. This was also the case for cancers of the lymph nodes, where mesotheliomas typically spread to.

Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on any breakthroughs or developments pertaining to mesothelioma research, treatments, and possible cures. If you or a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, such as lung cancer or asbestosis, you have important legal rights. Our attorneys can ensure you will receive the best representation and largest settlement possible for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.