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Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Information



Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer News - Return to Menu

Newly identified protein may help improve treatment for lung cancer

Medical Research News

21-Nov-2005 - Researchers hope that a newly identified protein can one day help improve treatment for lung cancer. The findings are reported by researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and colleagues in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the United States and more effective treatment strategies are desperately needed," said William J. Petty, M.D., from Wake Forest. "We believe we've uncovered why lung cancer is currently resistant to treatment with natural and synthetic derivatives of vitamin A, drugs that are highly effective for preventing and treating other types of cancer."

Using cell models, Petty and colleagues from Dartmouth Medical School set out to determine how resistance to this class of drugs, known as retinoids, occurs. In the process of the investigation, the researchers uncovered a protein, called RARâ1, that is critical for response to retinoid treatment.

Proteins are the products of genes and "express" the function of genes. The RARâ1 protein was detected in normal lung cells but was not expressed either in lung cancer cells studied in the laboratory or in biopsies of lung cancers from patients. By artificially expressing this protein in lung cancer cells, researchers found that sensitivity to this important class of drugs could be restored.

The research suggests that triggering RARâ1 protein expression in cancer cells could restore sensitivity to retinoid treatment. In future work, researchers plan to identify drugs that increase RARâ1 protein expression.

"Combining a retinoid with a drug that triggers expression of RARâ1 would form a new approach for treating patients with lung cancer," said Petty, an assistant professor of hematology and oncology at Wake Forest's School of Medicine, which is part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Ex-shipbuilding worker worried about asbestos


For 37 years, Mankichi Omori, worked at a shipbuilding yard where another worker cut asbestos materials to make pipe insulation.

His doctor told him in September 2000 that he had a thickening spot in the pleura, which is the thin, transparent membrane which covers the lungs and lines the inside of the chest. The condition is often caused by asbestos exposure.

He realized that he had become an asbestos victim and started to worry about his future.

Omori, 62, who lives in Tokyo, was involved in working on pipes in ship engine rooms from 1964 to 2001 at a shipbuilding yard.

"When the sunlight entered into the dimly lit room, the material looked like sparkling dust," he said.

He remembers being told in the 1990s that the glittering insulation was carcinogenic.

Asbestos is mineral fiber that has been commonly used a variety of building materials such as insulation. The World Health Organization said in 1977 that all forms of asbestos were carcinogenic, and many countries have sought to strictly regulate its use.

Some of Omori's fellow workers died of mesothelioma in 1999 and 2003, he said. Others who also worked with him were found one after the other to also have spots in their pleura.

Omori received a medical checkup once a year. But he filed an application with the Tokyo labor office for a health management handbook in July after learning major machinery maker Kubota Corp. had been implicated in many asbestos cases in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture.

Handbook owners are entitled to receive a free medical exam every six months. But Omori was rejected because the thickening spot in the chest was not found again. He then asked the then minister of health, labor and welfare to inspect his case.

"I don't know whether I am going to be stricken" he said. "I'd like to find it at an early date and live a little longer. I don't know why (the labor office) refused to recognize me. It's certain that I inhaled asbestos."

Yotaro Saito, a support group member who served as a proxy for Omori in trying to get the welfare minister to inspect his case, said, "I wonder whether the ministry is seriously dealing with (asbestos)."

The purpose of requesting the exam is early detection, Saito added.

There are about 20 to 30 doctors in the country who are experts at diagnosing asbestos-related illnesses.

"Doctors need some degree of experience and skill to be able to make judgments" on illnesses associated with asbestos, said Dr. Yuji Natori at a lecture at a medical conference in Tokyo in October.

A machinery manufacturing company re-examined its employees' X-rays after the Kubota asbestos cases came to light and found that about 30 workers had thickening spots in their pluera.

The machinery maker's doctor said that cases may have been able to have been found earlier, adding that "If I missed them, it is necessary to review the quality of medical service, including my diagnostic ability."

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