Identification of Redox-Sensitive Transcription Factors as Markers of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

Cancers (Basel). 2021 Mar 7;13(5):1138. doi: 10.3390/cancers13051138.


Although asbestos has been banned in most countries around the world, malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a current problem. MPM is an aggressive tumor with a poor prognosis, so it is crucial to identify new markers in the preventive field. Asbestos exposure induces oxidative stress and its carcinogenesis has been linked to a strong oxidative damage, event counteracted by antioxidant systems at the pulmonary level. The present study has been focused on some redox-sensitive transcription factors that regulate cellular antioxidant defense and are overexpressed in many tumors, such as Nrf2 (Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2), Ref-1 (Redox effector factor 1), and FOXM1 (Forkhead box protein M1). The research was performed in human mesothelial and MPM cells. Our results have clearly demonstrated an overexpression of Nrf2, Ref-1, and FOXM1 in mesothelioma towards mesothelium, and a consequent activation of downstream genes controlled by these factors, which in turn regulates antioxidant defense. This event is mediated by oxidative free radicals produced when mesothelial cells are exposed to asbestos fibers. We observed an increased expression of Nrf2, Ref-1, and FOXM1 towards untreated cells, confirming asbestos as the mediator of oxidative stress evoked at the mesothelium level. These factors can therefore be considered predictive biomarkers of MPM and potential pharmacological targets in the treatment of this aggressive cancer.

Keywords: asbestos; biomarkers; malignant pleural mesothelioma; mesothelium; oxidative stress; redox-sensitive factors.