One approach to mesothelioma treatment is suffocating the cells. The usual process is blocking these cells from receiving nutrients such as blood and oxygen.

Researchers at the University of Vermont have discovered a new strategy for depriving mesothelioma cells what they need to live.

The University of Vermont Cancer Center is hosting a phase 1 clinical trial for malignant mesothelioma. The trial will begin in 2022 in Europe, with University of Vermont the site for analyzing patient samples.


Blocking Cancer’s Natural Growth

The trial uses a drug to prevent a specific cell action. This prevention may cause cancer cells to die on their own, without the need for toxic agents like chemotherapy.

Dr. Brian Cunniff, a faculty member in UVM’s Larner College of Medicine’s Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Department, discovered the new approach as a Ph.D. student at the college.

“All tumor cells are very reliant on efficient waste management systems to grow and survive; we were interfering with that,” Dr. Cunniff said in the University of Vermont press release.


Similar to Anti-VEGF Therapy

All cells, even cancer ones, need blood and oxygen to survive and create new cells. Mesothelioma cells produce new blood vessels to feed themselves nutrients. This process is called angiogenesis, caused by the protein VEGF. Doctors are creating anti-VEGF drugs, such as ramucirumab, to block the creation of blood vessels for cancer cells.

The approach at the University of Vermont Cancer Center seems similar in theory.

“The drug takes away the ability of cells to metabolize toxic byproducts,” Dr. Cunniff said, “so they essentially choke on their own exhaust.”

The approach has been in the works for more than four years. It’s finally heading to trial, as a first-in-human study to test safety and tumor activity.

“There’s significant data in pre-clinical models that indicate this approach could have broad applicability to many cancer types,” Dr. Cunniff said. “Until we have sufficient data from the phase 1 clinical trial, it will be difficult to fully understand the possibilities of this approach, although there is considerable optimism.”

Clinical studies like this one are common for mesothelioma therapy. Our registered nurse, Karen Ritter, can help you or your family member apply to join a clinical trial. Email her at to see which ones are accepting patients.

    Sources & Author

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About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.

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