At our law firm, we represent people with mesothelioma, a fatal cancer caused by asbestos exposure. It can take decades for the disease to develop following exposure to asbestos.
Today we share information about important mesothelioma medical research coming out of Switzerland that sheds light on the biological processes that occur during the development of mesothelioma.
Nature of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare, but devastating cancer that causes malignant tumors to develop in the thin lining that surrounds internal organs. Called the mesothelium, the membrane surrounding the lungs most commonly develops cancer. Mesothelioma can also develop in the mesothelium encircling the abdomen or testes.
By the time mesothelioma is discovered, it is often quite advanced and the remaining survival time short. At this late stage, it is also difficult to effectively treat. For these reasons, cancer researchers hope to understand the biology of mesothelioma better to help diagnose it earlier and treat it more successfully.
Nature of Asbestos Fibers
According to an article from the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation or SBC about the new research, which involves mice, it is not the chemical nature of asbestos that causes cancer, it is its shape. When microscopic long, sharp fibers are inhaled, they pass through the lungs to the mesothelium, where they become lodged.
Stuck in the lining, the pointy fibers damage and inflame the surrounding tissue, triggering the body’s immune system to try to heal the injury and grow new tissue. The new Swiss National Science Foundation-funded research has shown that when the body’s immune system is focused on trying to repair the damage to the mesothelium, its ability to protect the body in other ways is diminished because of DNA mutations. Cancer cells that would otherwise be “quickly eliminated in a healthy patient, then begin to reproduce” into a tumor.
The article cites Zurich researcher Dr. Emanuela Felley-Bosco as saying that deeper understanding of this change in the DNA could help identify the “genetic signature” of asbestos-caused cancers and improve early diagnoses as well as treatment methodologies.