The malignant pleural mesothelioma is a rare tumor involving the mesothelium. A thin tissue that covers the pleura of lungs and the internal part of the thorax.

As Doctor Cristina Belgiovine, researcher at Humanitas, explains, “A prolonged exposure to asbestos, is responsible for this kind of tumor. A material widely used in the past, in the construction industry, and that is now illegal, due to the risks it posits for the human health. Exposure to asbestos causes a chronic inflammation of the airway. Thus, creating the conditions for the development of a tumor”.

Doctor Belgiovine involves in a research project about the cellular and molecular mechanisms, that cause the lack of healing in the chronic inflammation and the damaging of the DNA.

The research project

“We don’t know how the inflammation could lead to the transformation of normal cells into neoplastic ones. Thus, it is very important to pinpoint the factors that play a role in the inflammation and may favor the onset of a tumor in people exposed to asbestos. We should also pay attention to the molecules involved in the healing of the inflammation. If the inflammation heals, there are no severe consequences. But, if it does’t, it may lead to other factors able to cause irreversible damages to the DNA”.

Towards early-diagnosis biomarkers

“This study may also be useful in the clinical practice. In fact, pinpointing the main inflammatory mediators in patients’ tumor and plasma, will help in discovering early-diagnosis or therapeutic-response biomarkers. Thanks to genetic analysis, we will obtain a “molecular signature” to identify people that are predisposed to develop a malignant pleural mesothelioma. This way, not only we increase our knowledge about the inflammatory mechanisms that promote the development of tumors, but we also get results about new useful molecular targets for future therapies or for the prevention of diseases”, Doctor Belgiovine says.