Asbestos-induced chronic inflammation in malignant pleural mesothelioma and related therapeutic approaches-a narrative review.


The aim of this review is addressing the mechanisms of asbestos carcinogenesis, including chronic inflammation and autophagy-mediated cell survival, and propose potential innovative therapeutic targets to prevent mesothelioma development or improve drug efficacy by reducing inflammation and autophagy.

Diffuse malignant pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer predominantly related to chronic inflammation caused by asbestos exposure. Millions of individuals have been exposed to asbestos or to other carcinogenic mineral fibers occupationally or environmentally, resulting in an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. Overall patient survival rates are notably low (about 8-14 months from the time of diagnosis) and mesothelioma is resistant to existing therapies. Additionally, individuals carrying inactivating germline mutations in the BRCA-associated protein 1 (<i>BAP1</i>) gene and other genes are predisposed to developing cancers, prevalently mesothelioma. Their risk of developing mesothelioma further increases upon exposure to asbestos. Recent studies have revealed the mechanisms and the role of inflammation in asbestos carcinogenesis. Biomarkers for asbestos exposure and malignant mesothelioma have also been identified. These findings are leading to the development of novel therapeutic approaches to prevent or delay the growth of mesothelioma.

Review of full length manuscripts published in English from January 1980 to February 2021 gathered from from the National Center of Biotechnology Information and the National Library of Medicine were used to inform this review.

Key regulators of chronic inflammation mediate asbestos-driven mesothelial cell transformation and survival through autophagic pathways. Recent studies have elucidated some of the key mechanisms involved in asbestos-induced chronic inflammation, which are largely driven by extracellular high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1). Upon asbestos exposure, mesothelial cells release HMGB1 from the nucleus to the cytoplasm and extracellular space, where HMGB1 initiates an inflammatory response. HMGB1 translocation and release also activates autophagy and other pro-survival mechanisms, which promotes mesothelioma development. HMGB1 is currently being investigated as a biomarker to detect asbestos exposure and to detect mesothelioma development in its early stage when therapy is more effective. In parallel, several approaches inhibiting HMGB1 activities have been studied and have shown promising results. Moreover, additional cytokines, such as IL-1β and TNF-α are being targeted to interfere with the inflammatory process that drives mesothelioma growth. Developing early detection methods and novel therapeutic strategies is crucial to prolong overall survival of patients with mesothelioma. Novel therapies targeting regulators of asbestos-induced inflammation to reduce mesothelioma growth may lead to clinical advancements to benefit patients with mesothelioma.

  • Carbone M
  • Gaudino G
  • Pass HI
  • Xue J
  • Yang H
  • Zolondick AA
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Appears In
Precis Cancer Med, 2021, 4