Researchers at NYU Identify Problematic Protein in Mesothelioma Tumor Growth

NYU Medical Center

Researchers from the New York University Langone Medical Center, now Perlmutter Cancer Center, have uncovered a potential new therapeutic target and possible diagnostic tool in the ongoing battle against malignant pleural mesothelioma.

They concluded that the protein Ephrin B2 (EPHB2), a genetic biomarker, may hold the key to future advancements and the search for a cure.

“The community is looking at novel targets for therapy,” said Harvey Pass., M.D., lead researcher at the center and long-time mesothelioma pioneer. “We must expand our findings to elucidate the prognostic and predictive characteristics of this important pathway.”

The research will be published in the September issue of the Journal for Thoracic Oncology.

Hope for Patients

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that is caused by the inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers. Although advancements have been made in recent years, there still is no cure for mesothelioma, and the average survival rate after diagnosis is only 12-18 months. An estimated 2,500 people are diagnosed with pleural in America annually.

The EPHB2 research is important because it could provide a pathway to stopping the metastasis and tumor growth that has frustrated the medical community and made mesothelioma so difficult to treat. It can take anywhere from 10 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos before the cancer is diagnosed. The cancer often has spread before it is discovered.

Treatment and Earlier Diagnosis

This research also could provide another avenue to earlier detection of the disease, which would open up more treatment options and could extend the survival rate.

Levels of this particular protein were elevated in all 34 pleural mesothelioma tumors that were examined, in comparison with normal tissue. And all cell lines of pleural cancer overexpressed the EPHB2 in comparison with benign mesothelial cells.

Because the protein is responsible for the process of forming new blood vessels from existing ones, researchers have speculated that doctors could improve the survival rates if the growth of EPHB2 is controlled.

Stopping the EPHB2 growth also increased the apoptotic proteins and activity, which is part of the natural self-destruction of cells. Stopping the growth of EPHB2 also decreased the proliferation and invasion of the bad cells, in the laboratory research.

Researchers speculated that the EPHB2 also might have a role as a marker to provide a more accurate prognosis of the disease.

“EPHB2 seems to play an important role in MM (malignant mesothelioma) pathogenesis and these findings indicate that EPHB2 could serve as a potential novel therapeutic target for treatment of the disease,” the researchers concluded.

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Senior Content Writer

Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His specialty is interviewing top mesothelioma specialists and researchers, reporting the latest news at mesothelioma cancer centers and talking with survivors and caregivers.

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