PMC Research Update
Scientists at the Pacific Meso Center (PMC) are developing novel methods for creating and studying mesothelioma tumors outside of the human body, in order to more efficiently and accurately test the effectiveness of promising new treatments. By combining human mesothelioma cells, connective tissue (stroma), and immune cells in culture dishes, our researchers can create small, nodule-like structures called “spheroids.” These spheroids appear nearly identical to the mesothelioma nodules that typically are found on the lining of the chest cavity in patients with this disease. Many potential therapies, including immunotherapy and others, are so complex that the optimal conditions necessary for successful therapy cannot be defined easily, but require testing literally hundreds of different conditions – something that is not possible in standard research models. Our tumor spheroid model now makes such testing possible; consequently speeding the translation of basic research into clinical therapy for mesothelioma patients.
PMC scientists also are beginning to study gene expression in mesothelioma cells; that is, the extent to which certain genetic signals are abnormally increased or decreased compared to normal cells. Cell growth and death is highly regulated by genetic signals, and a better understanding of the specific genetic changes that occur in mesothelioma cells will give us insight into what causes these cells to grow and divide uncontrollably. Furthermore, the specific genes involved may provide a characteristic genetic profile or signature, which may be used to identify individuals who are at particularly high risk for developing mesothelioma even years before it occurs. Such knowledge would allow treatments to be tested that potentially could prevent the disease altogether.