A new target identified in treating mesothelioma

UH Cancer Center researcher leads international team in discovery

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Bryan Cheplic, 808-564-5911
Public Information Officer, Cancer Center
Kevin Cassel, 808-564-5916
Education Coordinator, Cancer Center
Posted: May 7, 2012

An international team of researchers -- led by Haining Yang, PhD, from the UH Cancer Center -- has identified HMGB1 as a critical protein in the pathogenesis of malignant mesothelioma, one of the most dangerous forms of cancer that are highly related to asbestos and erionite exposure.
These findings were just published in this month’s on-line issue of Cancer Research. This discovery outlines the process that causes the growth of these cancers and offers scientists a unique opportunity to develop specific therapies to treat mesothelioma.
 “We are very excited about this discovery,” said Dr. Yang. “The next step is to translate this discovery into actual treatments for mesothelioma patients.”
Mesothelioma is a very aggressive cancer usually diagnosed at late stages and is resistant to current treatments. The average survival is less than one year. However, 5% of patients diagnosed at an early stage have survivals of 5-10 years or more. Therefore, the identification of new biomarkers for early detection and novel targets for mesothelioma prevention and therapy are sorely needed. The discovery will help shed lights on these aspects.
Mesothelioma has been linked to occupational and environmental exposure to asbestos. Erionite, a naturally occurring mineral fiber also causes mesothelioma. In the U.S., approximately 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year. It has been estimated that over 25 million people have been exposed to asbestos in the US, while the number of those exposed to erionite is unknown.
The UH Cancer Center is a global leader in mesothelioma research. The Center’s thoracic oncology team, led by Director Michele Carbone, MD and PhD, and Dr. Yang, has also been instrumental in several other recent discoveries including the identification of the gene that causes mesothelioma, BAP1.
The current study was an international effort and included investigators from the UH Cancer Center, the John A. Burns School of Medicine at UH Manoa, the San Raffaele University and Research Institute in Milan, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda and the New York University School of Medicine.