UH team's discovery could prove a breakthrough in cancer treatment

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A University of Hawaii team has made a genetic discovery that could prove groundbreaking in cancer treatments and cures.

A UH Cancer Center team led by Dr. Michele Carbone discovered why some patients are more vulnerable to asbestos, sunlight and other environmental compounds.

The team found a gene mutation called BAP1, which has been shown to block the effect of chemotherapy, making cancer in patients who test positive for it incurable. Carbone's team believes the effect of the mutation can be reversed, allowing the chemo to do its job on more aggressive cancers.

Nearly 20 percent of all cancers have this mutation, such as mesothelioma, so the group's findings could result in significantly more people being cured of cancer.

Their findings, published in the highly-respected journal "Nature," could help doctors find better treatment for cancer patients, said study co-author Dr. Haining Yang.

The researchers were focusing on the causes and treatments of cancers with environmental causes, such as sunlight and asbestos.

The next step for the team is more lab work in order to move their research to clinical trials. Carbone and his team have patented their findings.

"The publication of the findings in 'Nature,' the premier scientific journal in the world, shows the power of collaboration," Yang said.

She added that despite Honolulu's geographic isolation, the study underscores how it's emerging as "the place where scientists from Asia, Europe and the mainland meet to work together to find new ways to fight cancer."

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