French researchers found that BDNF- Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is linked with the start and spread of the tumor in malignant pleural mesothelioma. Additional research can improve the diagnosis of mesothelioma treatment.

A biomarker called BDNF, found mainly in the brain is directly linked with the start and spread of mesothelioma. The level of BDNF can help identify the severity of mesothelioma and may also improve current treatment methods for different cancers.

BDNF- Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is a growth factor (protein). As the name indicates, it is mainly present in the brain and also expresses in other tissues as well.

French scientists at the University of Nantes published revealed the association of BDNF with malignant pleural mesothelioma-MPM in their recently published research in Molecular Cancer. The researchers wrote,

"We observed that high BDNF expression at the mRNA level in tumors or the protein level in pleural effusions (PE), was a specific hallmark of MPM samples. This protein presented significant but limited diagnostic properties."

The researchers studied various pleural cancers and observed a higher level of BDNF in the pleural effusion (lung fluid) of malignant pleural mesothelioma than other diseases. Moreover, the highest amount of BDNF accounts for the shortest survival time.

Based on these findings, further research can help improve the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of mesothelioma.

Importance of BDNF as Biomarker for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

BDNF functions as a growth factor in pleural mesothelioma tumors. As per this research, BDNF was present in the pleural fluid (liquid surrounding the lungs) in detectable amounts.

Growth factors are often produced by tumors to help them multiply and metastasize. A single tumor can produce several growth factors.

French researchers studied the presence of BDNF growth factor to find out the severity of mesothelioma, thus using it as a biomarker. A biomarker helps in the diagnosis of the disease. Among soluble mesothelioma biomarkers, BDNF is present in all mesothelioma types.

This study found that mesothelioma patients with a higher level of BDNF in lung fluid died earlier in comparison with the patients with lesser BDNF levels.

How is the Level of BDNF Connected with Mesothelioma Survival?

French researchers studied the BDNF level in 37 types of tumor cells, including mesothelioma. Among all these tumor types, the expression of BDNF was highest in pleural mesothelioma. Thereby, the researchers called high levels of BDNF as "hallmark" of malignant pleural mesothelioma, saying:

"We observed that high BDNF expression at the mRNA level in tumors or the protein level in pleural effusions (PE), was a specific hallmark of MPM samples."

Simultaneously, the researchers found that a high level of BDNF depicted low survival time. The lead researchers wrote in the study,

"Indeed, patients with high BDNF had a lower survival than patients with low BDNF (15.9 versus 21.1 months, p = 0.0736) and this survival difference is significant at 3 years."

French scientists theorized that the BDNF level might play some integral part to start and also metastasize mesothelioma. Dr, Smeele said,

“This association between high BDNF and poor survival suggests an implication of this protein in the development of the pathology,”

BDNF can Help Resolve MPM Angiogenesis Complex

Tumor cells need a steady influx of oxygen, blood, and nutrients to multiply and spread. Specific growth factors assist tumors in forming new blood vessels to fulfill these requirements. These blood vessels help tumor cells to increase, migrate and develop new tumors at distant tissues.

This process of blood vessel formation is called angiogenesis.

Different tumor cells produce distinctive growth factors in excess amounts. There are certain drugs available that target a few of these growth factors. But the problem is, targeting a single growth factor is of no use. Because this cannot help treat all types of cancers.

Moreover, tumors can also mutate, thus changing themselves physically and chemically. This mutation can block the drug, targeting only a single growth factor. Consequently, the tumor keeps on metastasizing using different growth factors.

The results observed by the researchers while studying the pleural effusion (fluid surrounding the lungs) in MPM patients showed  BDNF as a growth factor for malignant pleural mesothelioma cells. The researchers wrote,

"These observations demonstrate the strong implication of BDNF in the PE-induced angiogenesis."

But when the pleural effusion or lung fluid treated with BDNF blocking drug, the angiogenesis continued. Explaining the ongoing angiogenesis Dr. Smeele wrote,

“The resistance of some PE to the blocking antibody demonstrates that BDNF is not the only player participating in this process,” 

Further research can help to confirm the link between BDNF level and mesothelioma survival.

Anti-BDNF Drugs May Improve Mesothelioma Treatment

According to this research, BDNF protein is one of the significant components helping metastasis of pleural mesothelioma through angiogenesis.

Currently, there are 14 U.S. Food and Drug Administration- FDA approved angiogenesis inhibitors available to treat different cancers.

The researchers have pointed out that combining the existing therapies to target angiogenesis in pleural mesothelioma with the anti-BDNF drug can improve the efficiency of these treatments.

However, additional research on animal models is required to approve this theory. A comprehensive study in this regard will help develop new and better drug combinations to fight against mesothelioma and other pleural cancers.

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