Although medical researchers made the connection between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma many years ago, there is still relatively little that is known about the deadly disease. This is why, although mesothelioma generally takes several decades to develop following asbestos exposure, about half of those who are diagnosed with the disease pass away less after battling the painful disease for less than one year.
However, researchers at the University of Hawaii (UH) have reportedly discovered a genetic link to mesothelioma, which could potentially lead to significant breakthroughs in how to treat, and possibly even prevent, the deadly disease. Currently, mesothelioma is responsible for approximately 3,000 deaths in the United States every year.
According to Dr. Michele Carbone, the director of the UH Cancer Center, everyone is born with BAP1, the mesothelioma gene, in their DNA. When the gene mutates, or breaks, the person carrying that broken gene becomes more susceptible to developing mesothelioma. Further, when the person with the broken BAP1 gene is exposed to asbestos, they have a much greater risk of developing the disease than someone who does not carry the broken gene.
Therefore, although there now appears to be a genetic aspect of mesothelioma, it does not absolve those responsible for exposing their employees, family members, or others, of responsibility or legal liability for increasing the risk of contracting the disease.
While there is still much to learn about the BAP1 gene and its effects on mesothelioma, Dr. Carbone says that the new knowledge could create some significant breakthroughs. “So now we can try to understand how it works in order to fix it,” he said. “It’s like a car. If you don’t know what is broken, from where do you start? When you know something is broken, then you can try to fix it.”
Source: KITV, “UH Researchers Discover Genetic Link To Cancer,” August 28, 2011