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Your Environment. Your Health.

University of Pennsylvania

Superfund Research Program

Chemoprevention of Asbestos-induced Lung Diseases

Project Leader: Melpo Christofidou-Solomidou
Co-Investigator: Steven M. Albelda
Grant Number: P42ES023720
Funding Period: 2014-2020
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2014-2020)

It has now been clearly established in both animal models and in humans that inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to neoplastic diseases such as malignant mesothelioma (MM) and lung cancer. This is an important ongoing problem, since asbestos is still used in many countries around the world and there is also a large pool of previously exposed individuals who are at risk for cancer. There is currently no effective screening or chemopreventive approach for these at-risk populations. Given that recent studies have indicated that the pathogenesis of asbestos-induced cancers is due to chronic inflammation and oxidative tissue damage caused by persistent asbestos fibers, a well-tolerated and safe agent with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties could thus potentially be used to prevent the development of MM in asbestos exposed populations. Based on preliminary findings, Melpo Christofidou-Solomidou, Ph.D., and her research team have found that flaxseed lignans are safe, non-toxic compounds that have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. They are investigating the hypothesis that flaxseed or enriched flaxseed lignans could function as safe, non-toxic chemopreventive agents in asbestos-induced mesothelioma. The goal of this project is to provide data needed as the first steps to test and validate this hypothesis.

To achieve their goal, the project researchers are evaluating:

  • The ability of the active lignan in flaxseed, Secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG), to interfere with asbestos-induced ROS generation, inflammasome activation, and reactive oxygen species generation in macrophages and mesothelial cells in vitro.
  • The ability of wholegrain flaxseed or flaxseed-lignan complex given in diets to prevent acute asbestos-induced inflammation and oxidative damage in the mesothelial SV40 T-Antigen and the Nf2+/mut;Cdkn2a+/mut asbestos-induced malignant mesothelioma mouse models.
  • The ability of wholegrain flaxseed or flaxseed-derived lignan SDG given in diets to prevent asbestos-induced MM formation and death in these same mouse models.

    If the studies show efficacy with safety, the natural extension of the researchers’ work will be a toxicity and biomarker trial in which patients with heavy asbestos exposure who also had biomarkers of exposure (identified above and in the Biomarkers of Asbestos Exposure project) will be given flaxseed or the lignan formulation and changes in biomarkers will be identified. If the researchers’ observed clear changes in this trial, a larger chemoprevention trial in high risk populations would be considered.

    The researchers will interact closely with three Penn SRP projects including testing remediated asbestos from the Remediation of Asbestos Particles project, working closely with the animal model studies in the Animal Models of Mesothelioma project, and taking advantage of the biomarker work in the Biomarkers of Asbestos Exposure project. The researchers will also interact significantly with the Administration and Biostatistics Cores of the SF proposal and the Biomarker Core of the CEET.

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