Mesothelioma is a particularly destructive lung cancer that up until now has had a bleak outlook.

It is also possible for it to occur in the stomach lining and heart although this is less common as it is usually caused by the particles found in asbestos, which are inhaled into the lungs.

Symptoms develop over time, and often a diagnosis is not received until the disease is too advanced to cure.

medical staff in hospital laboratory perform tests

A recent study has shown that there may be a way of prolonging life expectancy by targeting the disease through the use of gene therapy. The following information explains this study further.

Hope for Mesothelioma Patients

As mesothelioma is a type of highly aggressive lung cancer, the diagnosis rarely comes with any hope of full recovery. Most patients who are diagnosed are only given a year to live due to the resistance of the cancer.

Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of this disease but symptoms often start as unnoticeable or minor and build up as the disease progresses, meaning that it’s only noticed when it’s too late.

Ordinarily, cells that have incurred damage through a cancer or similar disease will go through a process called apoptosis, which means they shut themselves down. This is the body’s natural way of fighting the invasion.

In this case, the cells fail to do so, meaning the disease wins and can spread with ease throughout the body.

A hopeful new drug, known as HRX9, assists in shutting down the damaged cells and ensuring that apoptosis takes place, thus allowing for the body to heal and repair.

This gives some hope to sufferers of mesothelioma for recovering or at least having a chance of living a longer, higher-quality life.

Background of the Study

The background of the study involves an investigation of genes known as HOX. These are a group of transcription factors which contain homeodomain and they decide on the cellular characteristics within the body during development. In some cancers, they are dys- regulated.

This study was designed to investigate the expression of HOX genes and the process they go through in mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma arises from the peritoneum or pleura, which is usually as a result of asbestos exposure. By examining the HOX genes, a better understanding of how the cells are responding can be achieved.

How They Tested the Drug

The first step in testing was to look at the levels of sensitivity in the mesothelioma-derived lines NCI-H28, MSTO-211H, NCI-H2052, and NCI-H226 to HXR9. A measurement of apoptosis (the process of cells shutting down) was taken through a FACS-based assay with Annexin.

Profiles of the HOX gene were created using RNA and RT-QPCR taken from primary mesotheliomas and cell lines. A mouse was used to test the vivo efficacy of HXR9.

Results of the Study

The results of the study have shown that HOX genes are drastically dysregulated in malignant mesothelioma.

When the HOX gene was targeted with HXR9, it caused apoptotic cell breakdown in 100% of the mesothelioma-derived cell lines. It also decreased the likelihood of the mesothelioma tumors growing in the mouse.

Another finding was that the sensitivity of these lines to HXR9 matched up with the relative expression of HOX genes that contain both an oncogenic or tumor reductive function in cancer.

An analysis conducted of this expression showed that these cells could be increasingly sensitive to the disturbance of HOX activity by HXR9. The expression of HOXB4 is positively linked with survival.


To summarize, the results of this study have shown that HOX genes are a promising target in mesothelioma patients, and that HOXB4 expression has a direct correlation with overall survival rates.

If you or someone you know is suffering with mesothelioma, there might be more hope than
you think for prolonging life expectancy and increasing the quality of life.

While up until this point mesothelioma sufferers haven’t had much in the way of treatment options, this recent research may be able to shed light on a new approach. This would allow for cells to complete their natural defense process, and to add to the precious time we have with our loved ones.