Little is known about how asbestos causes the rare and deadly cancer mesothelioma. All scientists know for certain so far is that there is a definitive link. Because normal, healthy cells are somehow changed into malignant cells by the introduction of asbestos fibers into the body, DNA is involved. The DNA of the healthy cells is changed to create cancer cells. The study of genetics is therefore important to help find new ways to detect, prevent, and effectively treat mesothelioma.
DNA is the genetic material in everything alive that acts as a blueprint for physiological details. Much progress has been made in scientific and medical research toward understanding DNA and how it works. DNA is made up of genes, for example, and scientists have discovered that genes are linked to what color a person's hair and eyes are as well as how tall or short that person is. Scientists have also discovered that certain genes, called “oncogenes” dictate which cells in a body divide and grow and when these changes should occur. Similarly, genes that slow cell division are called “tumor suppression genes.” With this knowledge, research has shown that cancer is caused when there are changes in DNA that "turn on" oncogenes or "turn off" tumor suppression genes.
From this basis, researchers have been able to study the DNA changes that happen with mesothelioma. Continued research in this field could lead to early detection of mesothelioma as well as better treatments. The American Cancer Society has information about this particular field of research and any progress being made in it.
In the next and final installment of this series, the third key area of mesothelioma research will be explored — mesothelioma treatment.