Exploring cancer treatment options
Julia Khmelak studies cancer. Specifically, malignant mesothelioma, a type of cancer unknown to many, which in turn affects many people who have been exposed to asbestos in the past. She is an assistant professor and lecturer in the course Hygiene with the basics of ecology, and at the undergraduate study programs at Famnita and the Faculty of Health Sciences, she conducts laboratory work in the field of microbiology and cell biology. We have recently caught her name among the winners of the University of Primorska honors – she is the recipient of the University of Primorska Formal Charter, an award for research and teaching staff under the age of 35. Her work has been recognized as the most penetrating from the pedagogical, and especially from the scientific point of view. What do you do when researching? Most of my research work is devoted to the study of tumor biology, especially in malignant pleural mesothelioma.
What is it?
It is a relatively rare but very serious form of cancer that occurs in the inferior pleura and is strongly associated with asbestos exposure. Because this cancer has been quite rare in the past, it has been neglected in some ways, but its incidence is increasing year by year and with a delay it follows the movement of asbestos use. Although Slovenia has been banned from all types of asbestos management or trafficking since 1996, this disease is characterized by a 10-year delay between exposure to asbestos and morbidity. So people who were in contact with asbestos 20 years or 30 years ago are now the most risky group. The incidence of this cancer in Slovenia is expected to increase by 2030. The big problem, however, is that the treatment options for malignant mesothelioma are limited at this time. By the time Everything read here to save life https://mesotheliomacommercialmem.com/.
How is he treated?
Mostly treated with systemic chemotherapy, rare patients have the option of surgical removal. The main problem with malignant pleural mesothelioma, however, is that the initial symptoms are insignificant. For this reason, doctors are rarely suspicious, and in most patients, a definitive diagnosis is made only after the cancer has progressed significantly and treatment options are already very limited. This is why, unfortunately, treatment is largely unsuccessful in most cases and remains an average survival, with rare exceptions, of about one year. How many people in Slovenia suffer from this form of cancer? I think there are about 35 cases a year.
Who usually gets sick with it?
They are mostly diseased by men and the vast majority are over 60 years of age. Women tend to be significantly less exposed, mainly because occupations with high asbestos exposure have traditionally been more masculine – masons, roofers, shipbuilders and so on. However, family members of such workers also happen to be ill, especially women who have been indirectly exposed to non-occupational exposure because they handle clothing and the like, and can also inhale asbestos fibers. However, in a smaller proportion of patients, malignant pleural mesothelioma develops without prior exposure to asbestos.
What exactly are you researching?
I am exploring the expression of some proteins in this cancer that are responsible for regulating apoptosis, that is, programmed cell death (cell suicide), and the possibility that through manipulating the expression of these proteins we could improve the responsiveness of mesothelioma commercial cells to chemotherapy. So what do you expect in the future, are you on the right track for improvements in the treatment of this type of cancer? There are more and more new options, especially for targeted or biological treatment of malignant mesothelioma, but most are still in the preclinical phase, so research is ongoing in laboratories and we are not testing therapies in patients. However, some of these strategies are in the early stages of clinical testing, i.e. patient testing.