Doctors at Brigham and Women’s Test Mesothelioma Therapies on Mice

Mouse sits on gloved hand

At the acclaimed Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, it’s usually the thoracic surgeons, oncologists or pathologists getting the credit for advancing the fight against malignant mesothelioma.

This time, it’s the mice.

With a rare cancer like mesothelioma, research scientists often don’t have enough real test cases to use in their search for better adjuvant therapies, needing subjects who first have had surgery.

That’s where the lab mice are contributing now.

Scientists at Brigham & Women’s Hospital have been grafting human mesothelioma cells into the mice, letting them grow, then surgically removing the tumors from the peritoneal cavities, giving them viable test subjects for adjuvant therapies.

Before closing the surgical openings, researchers were applying intracavitary chemotherapy, allowing them to evaluate the chemotherapy drug, paclitaxel, using expansile nanoparticles.

And what they found was encouraging, something they could not have discovered without the help of the mice.

Although paclitaxel has been tested alone as a chemotherapy drug, in both mice and humans, researchers wanted to gauge its effectiveness as part of the multi-modal approach that has become so popular.

Malignant mesothelioma cancer stems from an exposure to asbestos and has a particularly poor prognosis, making even the smallest advancements important.

“Treatment with Pax-eNP (paclitaxel) improved overall survival in the setting of CRS (cytoreductive surgery), suggesting that [it] merits further evaluation for intracavitary drug delivery following the surgical resection of malignant mesothelioma,” concluded the testing.

The paclitaxel-loaded nanoparticles were designed to kill off any mesothelioma cells that remained after the surgery. The mice were assessed for 90 days after surgery. The ones which had paclitaxel in addition to the surgery survived longer than the ones which had surgery alone. The conclusion was that surgery alone did not prolong survival, and confirmed the belief that combination therapy worked best.

The cytoreductive surgery in mice incurred less than a 5 percent operative mortality, making it feasible and reproducible.


Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His most recent experience is in researching and writing about asbestos litigation issues and asbestos-related conditions like mesothelioma. If you have a story idea for Tim, please email him at tpovtak@asbestos.com

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