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UH researcher leads breakthrough on a deadly cancer

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 5:34 a.m. HST, May 7, 2012

An international team led by University of Hawaii Cancer Center researcher Haining Yang has identified a protein known as HMGB1 as a critical link in the development of malignant mesothelioma, one of the deadliest forms of cancer.

The findings were published in the current issue of the online journal "Cancer Research."

Mesothelioma has been linked to occupational and environmental exposure to asbestos and the naturally occurring mineral fiber erionite. The average survival for those diagnosed with the disease is less than one year, in part because the cancer is highly aggressive and resistant to current treatments, and partly because it is usually diagnoses it its late states.

HMGB1, a "damage-associated molecular pattern" protein, had been previously associated with the transformation of mesothelial cells. The new study outlines the specific role HMGB1 plays in the growth and development of malignant mesothelioma.

The new findings have been welcomed as a important step in improving the prospects for early detection of mesothelioma and developing strategies for prevention.

The study included investigators from the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, the John A. Burns School of Medicine, the San Raffaele University and Research Institute in Milan, the National Institutes for Health in Bethesda and the New York University School of Medicine.

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