Cancer Research Center of Hawai'i researcher and team report findings on Malignant Mesothelioma in national scientific media

University of Hawaiʻi
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Lynette Lo Tom, (808) 275-3004
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Sharon Shigemasa, 586-3011
Cancer Research Center of Hawaii
Posted: Jun 23, 2006

HONOLULU-Michele Carbone, MD, PhD, recently recruited Director of the Thoracic Oncology Program at the Cancer Research Center of Hawai'i, and his research team including Haining Yang, PhD, and others, will have their study findings on malignant mesothelioma publicized this week in two reputable, national scientific journals. The articles will appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. (PNAS) and in both the online and print editions of Nature Reviews Cancer.

Asbestos is a potent carcinogen that causes mesothelioma, arelatively rare cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen. The PNAS article reports that Carbone and Yang and their team, have found that asbestos induces the release of a pro-inflammatory cytokine, a type of protein involved in the duration and intensity of a body's immune response as well as cell-to-cell communication.

This particular cytokine known as a Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF)initiates a biochemical chain of events that protects asbestos-damaged cells from death. The team found that this TNF activates a specific protein, which in turn protects asbestos-exposed cells from dying.

Because the cells exposed to asbestos do not die, they can go on to develop into a cancer. As a result of these findings by Carbone's team, new methods of prevention and treatment could be developed that directly target the inflammatory pathway activated by this TNF and its target.

There are drugs (Etanercept, Onconases, etc.) currently available that target these pathways and could be tested to reduce the incidence of mesothelioma and lung cancer in exposed people.

In the Nature Reviews Cancer article, Carbone and his team report their findings of malignant mesothelioma, a relatively rare malignancy in most of the world, in three Turkish villages where the disease is responsible for an astounding 50 percent of deaths. The Turkish epidemic was long thought to be caused by the local presence of the carcinogen erionite, a fibrous glassy material used to build houses in the region. However, Carbone's team found that the Turkish health problem is caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors.

The scientists are confident that identification of the genesinvolved in this predisposition will reveal why although many people are exposed to carcinogenic fibers such as erionite and asbestos, only a few develop malignant mesothelioma. These articles may be viewed at the following web sites: www.pnas.org and www.nature.com.

The Cancer Research Center of Hawai'i is one of only 61 NationalCancer Institute-designated cancer centers throughout the United States. As a research unit of the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, it conducts cancer research, educational activities, and community outreach, including the operation of the Hawai'i Tumor Registry, the Hawai'i Clinical Trials Unit, and the Cancer Information Service of Hawai'i. The Center's research takes advantage of Hawai'i's ethnic and cultural diversity, geographic location, and unique environment.

Its research programs focus on: the possible causes of cancer and possible reasons for different cancer rates among Hawai'i's ethnic groups; reducing the incidence and impact of cancer in the Hawaiian population; and discovering new anti-cancer agents from local plants and marine microorganisms. The Center is located at 1236 Lauhala Street in Honolulu. For general information on the Cancer Research Center of Hawai'i, please visit its website at www.crch.org.