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Amidst the current international campaign to discover more dependable treatments for mesothelioma and other cancers related to asbestos exposure, a team of physicians in Italy think that they’ve developed a more effective method of finding out which patients will react in a positive way to a chemotherapy drug known as Gefitinib.

A protein found in cells, called Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase, is often produced at a faster rate in the cells of particular cases of cancer. These increased protein levels are often found in patients with mesothelioma. EGFR expansion can drive rampant cell reproduction and more accelerated tumor development. Gefitinib can act as a useful agent to slow down the production of EGRF inhibitor and assist in containing that runaway tumor growth. However, Gefitinib treatments don’t work as effectively in all patients.

A study authored by the Italian research team and published in the Public Library of Science found that the presence of estrogen and estrogen receptors could serve to help oncologists ascertain which mesothelioma cases will receive the most efficient treatment with Gefitinib. The Italian researchers discovered that estrogen receptor beta expression seems to restrict the activation of the EGFR protein in the cells’ interior in much the same way as Gefitinib. Since the estrogen and estrogen receptors regulate the rate at which EGFR reproduces in the cases of some patients, the use of Gefitinib as another form of therapy is not expected to deliver a meaningful effect in their treatment.

The research scientists controlled estrogen receptor beta expression in selected mesothelioma cells in order to test the theory in the laboratory. The effect created a more aggressive form of cancer, along with a higher probability that the cells may disperse and initiate new tumors, and a higher rate of EGFR-triggered growth. When the researchers brought the estrogen receptor beta back into the cells, the effect was reversed. The researchers reached the conclusion that interpreting the function of estrogen receptor beta expression in EGFR activation “provides a rationale to facilitate the targeting of a subgroup of mesothelioma patients who would benefit most from therapy with Gefitinib alone or in combination with Akt inhibitors.”

This line of scientific inquiry is crucial since determining the most useful chemotherapy treatments as early on in the process as is feasible can have a major effect for mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma, which is frequently brought on by exposure to asbestos, can be a highly aggressive form of cancer. Whenever physicians can utilize routine blood tests to clarify a patient’s treatment routine, they could spend less time and effort in creating a regimen through trial and error.

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