French Study Reveals Potential Mesothelioma Treatment Target

Research & Clinical Trials
Reading Time: 4 mins
Publication Date: 10/31/2018
Fact Checked
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Reviewed is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource

The Mesothelioma Center at has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

About The Mesothelioma Center at

  • Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
  • Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
Learn More About Us


My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family.
Mesothelioma patient’s daughter
  • Google Review Rating
  • BBB Review Rating

How to Cite’s Article


Dixon, S. (2020, October 16). French Study Reveals Potential Mesothelioma Treatment Target. Retrieved June 3, 2023, from


Dixon, Suzanne. "French Study Reveals Potential Mesothelioma Treatment Target.", 16 Oct 2020,


Dixon, Suzanne. "French Study Reveals Potential Mesothelioma Treatment Target." Last modified October 16, 2020.

Microscope lab test

A team of French researchers led by Dr. Christophe Blanquart has identified a substance that may better define the severity of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) in the body and provide clues to more effectively manage the rare cancer.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, as the name indicates, is a protein found in the brain. BDNF is a growth factor and also appears in other tissues in the body.

“It seems that BDNF could be a prognostic marker for MPM patients,” Blanquart told The Mesothelioma Center at “The level of BDNF in pleural fluids could reflect the severity of disease.”

The study was published October 11 in Molecular Cancer.

Physicians often use biomarkers in blood or other body fluids to diagnose the extent of cancer and its response to treatment.

Researchers also use these biomarkers to identify possible new targets for treatment.

There are no well-accepted biomarkers for malignant pleural mesothelioma. The discovery of links between BDNF and MPM is a step in addressing this challenge.

Importance of Growth Factors for Managing MPM

Tumors often produce growth factors that help cancer cells multiply and spread. Some existing cancer treatments target these proteins.

Different cancer types produce an excess of distinct growth factors. A drug targeting only one growth factor won’t work for all cancers.

Some tumors can mutate and find ways around a drug that blocks only one particular growth factor.

This is why continued research is vital for designing better therapies for all cancer patients, including people diagnosed with MPM.

BDNF appears to act as a growth factor for MPM cells, and according to the study, it can be detected in pleural fluids surrounding the lungs.

BDNF Offers Clues for Solving MPM Angiogenesis

Some growth factors help tumors create new blood vessels. The influx of blood, oxygen and nutrients through these vessels spurs cells to multiply.

This process is called angiogenesis, and it gives cancer cells a pathway to migrate and create new tumors in distant tissues.

“Our preliminary data suggest a function of BDNF in angiogenesis induced by pleural fluids from MPM patients in vitro and that a BDNF blocking strategy inhibits this effect,” Blanquart said.

This effect was tested in the lab. The next step for the researchers is to study this approach in animal models.

“Indeed, additional research, notably on in vivo models, is required to confirm this hypothesis.”

Blocking Blood Supply to Improve Treatments

Existing therapies could be combined with an anti-BDNF molecule to target angiogenesis in MPM, according to the researchers.

This may improve efficacy of currently approved drugs, although the authors stress this is speculative. More research is needed to test these ideas.

There is good precedent for this approach. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, there are more than a dozen angiogenesis inhibitors.

These medications are used in combination with chemotherapy to treat some colorectal, kidney, lung, thyroid, advanced breast, stomach, pancreatic and liver cancers as well as sarcomas, lymphomas, myelomas and astrocytomas.

BDNF for Diagnosing and Tracking MPM

In order for a biomarker to be useful for diagnosing and tracking cancer, it needs to have good sensitivity and specificity.

This refers to how well the biomarker avoids or limits false-positive and false-negative results.

False positives occur when the test indicates a person has the disease when they do not, resulting in stress and additional diagnostic procedures that are unnecessary and potentially harmful.

False negatives occur when a test shows a person does not have the disease when they do have it. This can result in treatment delays and more advanced, harder-to-treat cancer.

It is possible combining BDNF with other biomarkers may improve MPM diagnosis and treatment.

SMRP and fiubulin-3 are other potential MPM biomarker proteins currently under study by several research groups.

“The characteristics of BDNF, sensitivity and specificity, are too limited to be used alone for the diagnosis of MPM,” Blanquart said. “However, additional studies need to be carried out to evaluate the combination of BDNF with SMRP and/or Fibulin-3.”

blue medical health symbol
Connect with a Mesothelioma Doctor
Find a Top Specialist Near You