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Mesothelioma research update April 2021

Ian from our research team talks about the progress that our researchers have been making towards better treatments for mesothelioma.

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a type of cancer that begins to grow in the pleural membrane (thin layers of cells in the chest covering the lungs). The main cause of mesothelioma is breathing in asbestos dust. Mesothelioma continues to be a health issue in the UK and around the world. Every year in the UK, around 2,700 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma and around 2,500 people die from the disease.

Sadly, the one-year survival rate for mesothelioma is only 40% and for three years it is 10%. While asbestos use was banned in the UK in the 1990s, it continues to be mined and used around the globe, particularly in developing nations. Mesothelioma will be a growing health issue globally for decades to come.

Our researchers have been hard at work making real progress towards better treatments for mesothelioma.

  • A new screening method to find the best personalised therapy in mesothelioma.

The current standard treatment for mesothelioma is chemotherapy, but it’s doesn’t cure the disease and the benefits are limited. New treatments are urgently needed.

Immunotherapy, which helps the patients’ own immune system to attack the cancer cells, has proved promising in other cancer types like skin and lung cancer. Immunotherapies are undergoing clinical trials in mesothelioma, but we know that not all patients respond to immunotherapy and it’s not currently possible to predict who will and who won’t benefit.

In this study, Drs Zsuzsanna Tabi, Aled Clayton and colleagues at Cardiff University aim to develop a test that will predict which patients are likely to respond to immunotherapy. This will help the right patient get the right treatment and avoid wasted time and side effects of inappropriate treatments. This project also aims to explore whether combinations of treatments are more successful than single treatments alone, leading to better outcomes.

  • Genes in Cages. Design of Smart Capsules for the Delivery of Drugs.

New treatments are urgently needed for mesothelioma and more effective ways to deliver drugs to mesothelioma tissue whilst not attacking nearby healthy tissue would be of great benefit.

Recently, tiny capsules called “metalorganic frameworks”, or MOFs, have been developed as a potential way of targeting and delivering drugs more effectively. They offer lots of benefits over existing approaches as they have the potential to carry a wide variety of different drugs, can carry a high quantity of drug and can specifically target specific cells.

In this study, Dr David Fairen-Jimenez and his team at the University of Cambridge aim to develop a new type of drug delivery system that will specifically target mesothelioma cells. We hope that this will lead to new ways of treating mesothelioma that are more effective and have fewer side effects.


We’re looking forward to seeing how these projects develop as they aim to make a real difference to people affected by mesothelioma.       

A huge thanks to our Mesothelioma Patrons for supporting our mesothelioma research programme and helping to make these projects possible.

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5 May 2021

Last medically reviewed: May 2021. Due for review: May 2021

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.