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Fox Chase Cancer Center’s Research on Mesothelioma

Key takeaways: The mechanisms by which asbestos causes mesothelioma are complex and multifaceted. One of the pathways—the inflammatory axis—can be manipulated by preventative drugs; SC144 is the most notable example. The Fox Chase Cancer Center’s research on mesothelioma was done in mice about the efficacy of SC144, and their results are promising.

How does asbestos cause mesothelioma?

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring group of minerals that was widely used in the twentieth century for construction, design, and reinforcement purposes. Asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma;
the first studies about this relationship were published in the 1950s. Despite knowledge about the relationship, a.) asbestos wasn’t completely banned until 2024; and b.) scientists don’t exactly know how mesothelioma develops from asbestos exposure. There are several hypotheses that are based on an understanding of other cancers: asbestos might cause chronic inflammation; asbestos
could result in a suppressed immune response; asbestos could lead to mutations in DNA; asbestos could cause unchecked cellular growth. It’s likely that the carcinogenesis—or initial development of the cancer—is a complex mixture of all of these factors. Plus, because mesothelioma is relatively rare and has a long latency period, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact culmination of the cancer. This has made preventing mesothelioma virtually impossible, especially after an exposure to asbestos.


Fox Chase Cancer Center, located in Philadelphia, is piloting a new study that is seeking to interrupt the pathway of carcinogenesis. The aim of the Fox Chase Cancer Center’s research on mesothelioma is to prevent mesothelioma in people that have had known asbestos exposures. Up until this point, mesothelioma treatments have focused on addressing the cancer once it has already developed. However, Fox Chase’s efforts are novel: they’re seeking to disrupt pathways that they don’t entirely understand, in hopes of preventing or delaying the onset of mesothelioma. The researchers used the drug SC144, which disrupts the characteristic “inflammatory pathways” associated with mesothelioma development. Mesothelioma tumors incite a chain of inflammatory events—called an “inflammatory axis”—by way of the body’s immune system. So, instead of completely shutting down the immune system, SC144 prevents the glycoproteins, or inflammatory molecules, from binding to their respective receptors. By effect, this prevents the inflammatory axis from continuing. SC144 was tested on mice that were introduced to asbestos. The results are exceptionally promising: the mice’s tumor development was significantly delayed and they experienced prolonged survival. Because mesothelioma usually presents itself later in life (with the average age of diagnosis being 72), these results could translate to humans as total prevention. The safety of SC144 was also evaluated in the study, as patients would have to take the medication long-term. The researchers found that the drug was much safer than its predecessors, and hope that they can develop even safer and more dynamic analogs of the drug.

Implementing SC144

Implementing SC144 would require a.) patients to know about their asbestos exposures; b.) the U.S.—more generally—to monitor asbestos exposure sites; and c.) a willingness of patients to continuously take the drug. The most notable problem here is the lack of federal infrastructure to record asbestos sites and people exposed to asbestos. There are likely people who’ve been exposed to asbestos, and yet—because there isn’t a kind of “asbestos registry”—don’t know that they have been exposed. This makes prevention much more difficult. Hopefully, with the advent and implementation of preventative drugs and the recent ban on asbestos, the U.S. will codify legislation that requires an asbestos registry.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please call The Halpern Law Firm at 1 (800)-505-6000. We are here to help you navigate the legal process of filing a claim to receive compensation for your cancer diagnosis. We help mesothelioma victims and their families in Pennsylvania.



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