Groundbreaking Biomarker Demonstrates Efficacy Against Aggressive Lung Cancer

A biomarker called mesothelin helps predict mortality among patients with aggressive lung cancer, and researchers from the USP School of Medicine (FMUSP) analyzed the therapeutic potential of the molecule against malignant pleural mesothelioma-type tumors. One of the authors of the article , Professor Vera Luiza Capelozzi, from the Department of Pathology at FMUSP, details the research carried out and analyzes the importance of the marker.

According to the professor, the pleura is a membrane that covers the lungs and contributes to maintaining the expandability and elasticity of the lungs during respiratory movements. She says that when workers are exposed to materials such as asbestos, which contains asbestos fibers, inflammatory reactions can develop and, after around 20 years, malignant mesothelioma can develop.

According to Vera, this mesothelioma is a highly aggressive tumor, which is why the survival of patients affected by it is around six to 13 months and its evolution affects all structures of the chest, such as the lungs and the heart. She says that there is still no effective targeted treatment, but, in general, patients are diagnosed with the need for medical monitoring with chemotherapy. “In general, the response to chemotherapy and radiotherapy works for some time, but the response does not last longer than 18 months. Furthermore, the tumor may end up affecting other regions of the chest,” she says.

According to the professor, there is a gene encoded by the mesothelial cell called mesothelin, which encodes a protein with the same name, which has monogenic activity, that is, it can attract T lymphoid cells and lymphocytes close to the tumor, which are very desirable for the fight against cancers. She says that this protein was mostly studied in animals, but little analyzed in human patients, and that was the researchers’ motivation.

“We aimed to analyze the effect of this protein on the human patient and evaluate the reformatting of the so-called microenvironment in which the tumor cell grows and progresses. This led to the study of 82 cases collected from patients with a history of exposure to asbestos and this protein ends up emerging as a promising therapeutic practice, which can curb the growth and invasion of tissues in the case of the same malignant tumor”, he explains.

According to the professor, mesothelin was present in more than 70% of the patients studied and the use of the combined medicine generates an antibody that aggregates with it and induces an ideal immune response to destroy the tumor. This response, according to her, is basically formed by CD8 lymphocytes.

“The next steps are clinical trials and they are already being carried out, but the problem is that patients die very quickly, so it is difficult for us to follow them up to stage 3, they do not go beyond stages 1 and 2. Therefore, we need to- A little more time should be given to recruit and add more patients so that we can actually compare this treatment with others and show its effectiveness”, he concludes.