Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, and it is notorious for its low survival rate. This is partly because doctors often fail to diagnose the disease until the later stages. It is also because the disease often proves resistant to treatment.
The good news is that a research team from the University of Hawai’i recently made a discovery that might someday make mesothelioma treatments more effective. Interestingly enough, the potential improvements are linked to a genetic deficiency.
How can a genetic deficiency empower treatment?
Researchers have long known that people who lack one copy of the BAP1 gene are more likely to get mesothelioma. However, the team at the University of Hawai’i Cancer Center recently discovered these people have cancers that are often more responsive to treatment.
As the team noted, most people are born with two copies of the BAP1 gene. Those who lack one copy often develop mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos. But that’s not the end of the story. Other parts of the story reveal that the deficiency may lead to improved outcomes:
- The average survival rate for mesothelioma victims with BAP1 deficiencies is roughly six years greater than the standard survival rate
- Most of these victims respond well to therapy
- Some of these victims have even been cured
At first glance, this looks like a paradox. A genetic deficiency that makes people more susceptible to a disease also improves their chances for successful treatment. However, it’s how the deficiency empowers treatment that servs as good news for mesothelioma victims. Indeed, the discovery might prove helpful for other cancer victims, too.
The team claims that people need both copies of the BAP1 gene to stabilize the HIF1 protein. This is a protein that helps tumor cells grow and spread. In patients with only one BAP1 gene, the HIF1 protein doesn’t stabilize, and the tumor environment suffers from a lack of oxygen. This makes the tumors more responsive to treatment.
Every step counts
Notably, the researchers did not uncover a cure. Nor will their work lead to a cure anytime soon. However, as we have said before, researchers are always looking for better treatments. Over the years, their work has led to better outcomes. People’s lives grow incrementally better.
This is a significant breakthrough because the team identified a brand new target. Researchers can now explore the ways the BAP1 gene interacts with tumor growth. In time, their work may better disrupt tumors. Their future cancer treatments may become more effective.