Asbestos is a significant public health hazard for at least two reasons. First, it is everywhere. During the last century, it was employed in thousands of uses, in millions of locations, ranging from kitchen potholders to insulation on industrial steam boilers. Thousands of workers across decades who directly worked with installing and servicing equipment using asbestos products have developed asbestosis and mesothelioma.
The other element that makes it so significant is that once mesothelioma develops, it is almost always incurable, leading to a painful death for the victim. And with asbestos located in millions of locations throughout the U.S., every day more people are unwittingly exposed to the deadly fibers.
So, word of any medical advancements in the fight against mesothelioma are always welcome news. A recent study was published which showed the potential of genetically-modified T cells being used to target and kill mesothelioma tumors.
Researchers were encouraged with their strategy, as the altered white blood cells not only recognized the tumors and were able to successfully attack and eliminate them after the injection, but they appeared to cause other T cells to "activate" and created a persistent resistance to cancer.
When researchers reintroduced a cancer tumor 200 days after the first injection of the T cells, the remaining T cells successfully eliminated that tumor.
It is hoped that this success will lead to approval by the Food and Drug Administration for a safety trial next year. It would be remarkable news if this research leads to the eventual development of a effective treatment to stop mesothelioma, and of great service to the thousands who develop mesothelioma every year.
Latimes.com, "Genetically modified cells learn to fight mesothelioma," Geoffrey Mohan, November 5, 2014