There may be light at the end of the tunnel for mesothelioma sufferers.
The rare cancer, which results from exposure to asbestos, kills most patients but a team of Sydney oncology experts has found injecting sufferers with missing genetic information can reverse tumour growth.
“This has created considerable excitement in the scientific world,” the study’s principal investigator, Professor Nico van Zandwijk, said on Friday.
Researchers first identified that mesothelioma sufferers’ cancerous cells were missing important nucleotides, called microRNA.
This genetic information, present in all normal cells, not only controls cell function but prevents cancer growth.
Armed with this knowledge, the team began injecting patients’ deficient cells with microRNA.
After four years of trials they discovered replacing the missing microRNA nucleotides stopped cancer growth and could reduce tumour size.
“This is a magnificent finding,” Prof van Zandwijk from Sydney University’s Concord Clinical School told AAP.
But there’s a lot more work to be done before the treatment could be used to fight mesothelioma in the real world.
Prof van Zandwijk says more clinical trials are required over at least six years before the treatment could be registered.
Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world due to mining and the widespread use of asbestos in building materials up until the 1980s.
The cancer, which originates in the tissues lining the lung, is resistant to almost all forms of therapy.
Only 40 per cent of patients respond to standard chemotherapy which adds just months to their lives.
The results of the trial have been published in the latest issue of Lancet Oncology.