A new study from the University of Hawaii suggests that personalized treatment approaches could soon lead to better mesothelioma outcomes.
The study focused on patients with mutated BAP1 genes, who comprise roughly 10% of all mesothelioma victims. These patients tend to respond to treatment differently than patients without the mutated genes. The study argues that personalized treatment approaches could lead to improved prevention, detection and therapeutic approaches.
Why genetic mutations matter to cancer treatment
Nearly everything researchers learn about diseases helps them find ways to fight them. That means it’s not much of a surprise that this recent study found more support for tailoring treatments to mutated BAP1 gene carriers. But, why is this the case?
The American Cancer Society notes that genetic information helps physicians fight cancers in at least five different ways:
- Genetic markers provide for better diagnosis and monitoring. Physicians can measure the number of mutated genes in a sample and track that number during treatment.
- Genetic information can help doctors make better prognoses. In turn, they may adjust the intensity of treatments based on how they expect patients to respond.
- Some drugs can target the proteins for which the mutated genes are responsible. These help offset the damage the mutated proteins cause and can often slow or stop tumor growth.
- Some drugs can reactivate damaged genes. In some cancers, certain genes become methylated, which deactivates them. Scientists have been able to reverse this methylation in some cases, reactivating the genes so they can function properly.
- Doctors can also use gene tests to determine if certain drugs will work properly. Mutated genes can prevent some drugs from functioning as intended.
In other words, genetic information, such as the presence of a mutated BAP1 gene, allows physicians to focus on treatments they expect to prove more effective and rely less upon brute-force approaches.
Mesothelioma treatment still faces a steep learning curve
Researchers have made numerous discoveries in recent years that may help them combat mesothelioma. However, these have not all yet translated to better patient care. There are two main reasons:
- Many of the discoveries are still working their way through lengthy clinical trials. Because mesothelioma is a rare cancer, it often takes longer for researchers to gather and present enough data to get approval for new treatments.
- Doctors do not always understand the options available to mesothelioma patients. Again, because mesothelioma is a rare cancer, doctors working outside of focused treatment centers may not be aware of the latest developments.
As a result, mesothelioma victims and their families want to explore their options on their own. Their doctors are an excellent resource, but their searches may lead them to information their doctors did not have.
Here, it may be wise for patients to see if they may qualify for any clinical trials. Additionally, attorneys who have a great deal of experience with mesothelioma cases can often help patients network and find quality treatment options.