Back in 2011, researchers found that people with a mutation of the BAP1 gene are more likely than others to develop mesothelioma if they are exposed to asbestos. While this information is certainly not very positive — especially for those with the BAP1 mutation — new, encouraging information about extended long-term survival has just been published by another team of researchers in the journal Carcinogenesis. The study concluded that although individuals with the BAP1 mutation are more likely to develop mesothelioma, they also have an overall seven-fold increased long-term survival rate.
Study Findings Offer Hope for Some Mesothelioma Patients
The research team compared survival among 23 different malignant mesothelioma patients with a BAP1 mutation to all other malignant mesothelioma patients recorded in the US Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program data from 1973 to 2010. The SEER Program is part of the National Cancer Institute and provides information on cancer statistics in an effort to reduce the burden of cancer among the U.S. population.
Two important findings to come out of the study were:
- Median survival for the mesothelioma patients with BAP1 mutations was five years. For the US SEER group, median survival was less than one year.
- Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma or with a second malignancy in addition to mesothelioma, had a median survival of 10 years. This was longer than patients who only had pleural mesothelioma or did not have a second malignancy.
How Can Mesothelioma Victims Benefit from This New Information?
For people with the BAP1 mutation who already have mesothelioma, the researchers proposed, “appropriate genetic counseling and clinical management should be considered.”
What exactly does this mean? Genetic counseling would involve meeting with a genetic counselor who can evaluate your unique situation and help you review gene therapy opportunities. There are different approaches to gene therapy, but in general, the goal is to add new genes to cancer cells to make them easier to kill. A genetic counselor can also play a role in evaluating your family members to see if they have inherited your BAP1 mutation, which would increase their risk of developing mesothelioma. If they know about the mutation before illness occurs, they can take proactive steps and hopefully avoid mesothelioma completely.
When it comes to clinical management, this means mesothelioma patients should be under the care of one or more medical professionals who can help them manage the disease. This could come in the form of helping a patient with symptom management or recommending treatment options to keep the cancer at bay.
Now that the medical community is aware of the encouraging prognosis for BAP1 mesothelioma patients, it will be interesting to see what measures they may take to try and prolong life even more in the future.