How can asbestos fibers, a substance that kills cells, cause tumor cells to grow? An international team of researchers including the UH Cancer Research Center’s Haining Yang and Michele Carbone explain in the June 28 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers discovered a domino effect: asbestos induces a process called programmed cell necrosis, which leads to release of a protein molecule that causes a type of inflammation. The particular inflammatory reaction triggers release of mutagens and factors conducive to tumor growth.
Identification of the protein molecule, called high-mobility group box 1, or HMGB1, could give physicians a tool to identify asbestos–exposed individuals, the researchers note. They are planning clinical trials to see if interfering with the inflammatory reaction could prevent or reduce tumor growth.