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Addressing hypoxia as a new target for treatment of asbestos-induced cancer

Professor Luciano Mutti, Chair in Cancer Research, School of Environment & Life Sciences, University of Salford successfully applied for a grant from Mesothelioma UK and the British Lung Foundation for a study into targeting hypoxia as a treatment for mesothelioma. 

Hypoxia is a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues. In particular, mesothelioma cells express high levels of the hypoxia biomarkers CAIX, GLUT-1, MCT1/MCT4 which are related to a poor prognosis and treatment resistance. 

Several findings indicate that mesothelioma is characterised by a hypoxic microenvironment - the cellular area surrounding a tumour including blood vessels, immune cells and lymphocytes. The tumor and the surrounding microenvironment are closely related and interact constantly. 

It is hoped that the study will allow researchers to identify hypoxamiRs (molecules which regulate how cells adapt to hypoxia) and their targets/pathways which could lead to the identification of novel therapeutic approaches to treatment. 

After identifying the hypoxamiRs, the project aims to undertake early phase clinical trials to test the effects of modulating these molecules and their related pathways. Longer term, there is potential for personalised treatment of mesothelioma patients by specifically targeting the hypoxic component of their tumours. 

Treatments with miRs antgonists/agonists for mesothelioma are currently being tested in early clinical settings so the translation of results on hypoxamirs are expected to be announced soon.