Malignant pleural mesothelioma: History, controversy and future of a manmade epidemic
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEuropean Respiratory Review. 2015, 24 (135), 115-131. 10.1183/09059180.00007014
Asbestos is the term for a family of naturally occurring minerals that have been used on a small scale since ancient times. Industrialisation demanded increased mining and refining in the 20th century, and in 1960, Wagner, Sleggs and Marchand from South Africa linked asbestos to mesothelioma, paving the way to the current knowledge of the aetiology, epidemiology and biology of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is one of the most lethal cancers, with increasing incidence worldwide. This review will give some snapshots of the history of pleural mesothelioma discovery, and the body of epidemiological and biological research, including some of the controversies and unresolved questions. Translational research is currently unravelling novel circulating biomarkers for earlier diagnosis and novel treatment targets. Current breakthrough discoveries of clinically promising noninvasive biomarkers, such as the 13-protein signature, microRNAs and the BAP1 mesothelioma/cancer syndrome, are highlighted. The asbestos history is a lesson to not be repeated, but here we also review recent in vivo and in vitro studies showing that manmade carbon nanofibres could pose a similar danger to human health. This should be taken seriously by regulatory bodies to ensure thorough testing of novel materials before release in the society.