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Targeting Specific Kinase Proteins Can Lead to Personalized Mesothelioma Treatment

Chemotherapy drugs that are kinase inhibitors have been the primary method of treatment for mesothelioma and many other cancers. The drugs attack the proteins in an effort to prevent cell division and to kill the cancerous cells. Now, researchers report they have found a way to home in on the specific kinases present in a tumor allowing oncologists to target them with drugs developed for that specific kinase.

Just as researchers have been focusing on genetic sequencing to develop the human genome, researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center are focusing on kinase sequencing to develop the “kinome.”

“When it comes to gene sequencing and personalized medicine for cancer, spotting an aberrant kinase is a home run,” say the researchers.

Kinases function as drivers for numerous types of cancer, including mesothelioma. Many researchers have found that kinases are involved in the gradual transformation of normal tissue in the lining of the lung into malignant pleural mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos.  Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center, who have developed a catalog of kinase inhibitor drugs, report the body has more than 500 kinases that perform a variety of functions. Various studies on mesothelioma have confirmed that developing an effective kinase inhibitor may be the key to developing drugs that kill mesothelioma cancer cells.  Some kinase inhibitors used to treat mesothelioma include gefitinib, dasatinib and erlotinib.

Taking a personalized approach to the treatment of mesothelioma, which targets a patient’s unique genetic characteristics, offers the most effective treatment options. As the Michigan researchers do more sequencing, they are able to find the kinase proteins that are over-expressed leading them to conclude that the cancer cells are dependent on the proteins. These findings can be used to “therapeutically exploit that dependency.”

“We have a small but effective inventory of ‘druggable’ mutations that we know play a role in cancer,” says study author Chandan Kumar-Sinha, Ph.D. and research assistant professor at Michigan. “As we are doing more sequencing, we’re coming to realize just how small that inventory is. On the one hand, it’s a limitation. On the other hand, there are numerous oncogenic kinases, and there are a lot of kinase inhibitors. Our goal is to determine how to match more of these therapies with the right patients.”

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Nancy Meredith is a blog and web content writer with more than 20 years of professional experience in the Information Technology industry. She has been writing about Mesothelioma for 4 years. Follow Nancy on Google+