Australian researchers are cautiously optimistic after using nanocells to achieve what could be one of the most significant breakthroughs in asbestos-related cancer treatment in a decade.

Scientists from the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Centre have published a case report of a patient whose mesothelioma has almost entirely disappeared.

Bradley Selmon was one of ten patients in a phase-one clinical trial of a new treatment that used very small genes known as microRNA to inhibit tumour growth.

The genes were transported to the mesothelioma in his right lung using Australian-designed nanocells.

Professor Reid said “Putting the microRNA inside nanocells was like using a Trojan horse”.

“A nanocell is a delivery vehicle,” he said.

“You can package basically anything in there that you like, so a chemotherapy drug – or in our case a mini-gene – and then it’s injected into the body.”

Once in the lung, the nanocells delivered the microRNA to the affected lung to inhibit tumour growth.

Researchers emphasised Mr Selmon was the only patient to respond so well.

The other nine patients in the trial have either remained stable or continued to decline.

They do not know how long the treatment will work or if it will work in others.

“It’s early days,” Dr Kao said.

About Mesothelioma

* 600 people are diagnosed each year with mesothelioma
* Mostly men get it
* It is often diagnosed late
* The median survival after diagnosis is 12 months

It can take at least 20 years after exposure to asbestos for mesothelioma to develop “Hopefully this case will provide some hope to mesothelioma patients that research is being done and we are hopefully advancing therapy options for future patients.”

Mesothelioma is one of the hardest cancers to treat and patients typically do not live long after diagnosis.

There is only one main type of chemotherapy and when it stops working patients have few options.

“There haven’t been many breakthroughs in the last 10 years so we hope we’ve got something here to give hope to patients,” Professor Reid said.

The research is published today in the American journal Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The ground-breaking research was conducted at the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute at the Bernie Banton Centre.