Advances in the molecular biology of malignant mesothelioma

Acta medica Okayama. 2008 Feb;62(1):1-7. [Link] [PDF Full Text]

Toyooka S, Kishimoto T, Date H.

Department of Cancer and Thoracic Surgery, Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Okayama 700-8558, Japan.


Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is a highly aggressive tumor with a dismal prognosis. The incidence of MM is increasing as a result of widespread exposure to asbestos. As for the molecular alterations that occur in MM, chromosome alterations including homo-deletion of the P16 and P14 genes located in the 9p21 are well known. Mutations are rare in the P53 and Ras genes, which are frequently present in epithelial solid tumors. However, mutations are frequently present in the neurofibromatosis type 2 gene. Epigenetic alterations including DNA methylation have been found in the MM, the profile of which is different from that of lung cancer, although differential diagnosis is sometimes clinically difficult. As in other malignant tumors, genes that are related to immortalization, proliferation, metastasis, angiogenesis, and anti-apoptosis are also overexpressed in MM, contributing to its malignant phenotype. It is of interest that simian virus 40 has been implicated to be one of the causative factors of MM in western countries. Although the causative role of asbestos is well-known in MM, much less information is available for MM than for other malignant tumors regarding the molecular alterations that occur in the disease. In terms of future tasks, it will be necessary to apply the knowledge that is learned about molecular alterations to clinical practice and to further elucidate the pathogenesis of MM with extensive research.

Keywords: malignant mesothelioma, P16, methylation