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Santia supports groundbreaking research into the early detection and diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma

Alongside other partners from the University of Hawaii, Loughborough University, NHS Sheffield Teaching Hospital and The June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund, Santia are proud to be providing ongoing research support to PhD student Oana Voloaca at Sheffield Hallam University for her work on improving the prognosis of mesothelioma sufferers by developing new methods of asbestos fibre detection and diagnosis in cell samples.

Santia have provided raw materials, mineral fibres, knowledge, expertise and access to laboratory facilities since the early stages of Oana’s research. In February 2018, initial work at the Santia lab was undertaken by Oana with the support of our Technical Director, Will Deverill and Quality Manager, Tina Thompson to produce sample media in stable solution for both Actinolite and Crocidolite fibres with a view to early assessment of cell viability when treated with the fibres.

Whilst the outcome of this initial work was promising, as seen in the adjacent photos of MSTO-211 cell lines following incubation with Actinolite and Crocidolite fibres, Will Deverill commented on the potential viability of the reference media, stating that whilst relatively uniform under low power microscopy, the reference minerals being used as the basis for initial sample media preparation may not be ideal in terms of homogeneity at higher magnification. When considering the ultimate intention of exposing cell lines to known concentrations of asbestos fibres in solution and progressing to evaluation under mass spectrometry, more suitable raw mineral preparations could be made available for research purposes.

Will Deverill further commented that the use of Chrysotile, Amosite and Crocidolite fibres as the basis of sample media preparation would be more likely to accurately reflect the fibre types more commonly seen in our built environment, and therefore by assumption, in human tissue samples.

Further work was undertaken by Oana in the Santia lab to build upon and refine the research reference media, again supported by Will Deverill and Tina Thompson. Santia provided UICC (Union for International Cancer Control) reference minerals of Chrysotile, Amosite and Crocidolite for this phase of work. The UICC mineral preparations offered a more ‘refined’ mineral product which would be more likely to offer a more consistent aspect ratio of fibre and as such a more consistent and reliable concentration in solution.

Oana’s work continues to progress and show promising results. All the mineral fibres provided by Santia have been detected using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry imaging and, now entering her second year of research, Oana will shortly be progressing from cell cultures to human tissue provided by the MesoBank.

Oana has presented her research, kindly acknowledging the contribution made by Santia to date, at a number of conferences and events. The most notable events in 2018 were the International Mass Spectrometry Conference in Florence, Italy and the British Mass Spectrometry Symposium in Cambridge, UK.

Santia are delighted to continue to offer Oana any help and assistance she needs in continuing her work and we are excited to hear about progress in the next phase of her research.

A few words directly from Oana:

“More than 2 million scientists around the world are carrying out groundbreaking cancer research hoping to improve someone’s life and keep our loved ones close for as long as possible. Fortunately, I am lucky enough to be part of this movement and together with my team at Sheffield Hallam University and beyond, we aim to change lives for the better for those diagnosed with one of the most dreadful forms of cancer: malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a fatal and aggressive cancer of the mesothelium, the internal lining of the lungs, which causes around 2,500 deaths each year within the UK and this number is thought to increase by 5-10% each year. It is highly associated with occupational and environmental exposure to asbestos, particularly crocidolite, amosite and chrysotile. However, 20% of cases are idiopathic, meaning that the patients have never been directly exposed to the asbestos fibres. In nearly 95% of the overall cases the life expectancy is dismal, with only 9-12 months survival post-diagnosis.

My PhD project is focusing on improving this prognosis by developing new bioanalytical methods of fibre detection and diagnosis. Diagnosis usually occurs at such an advanced clinical stage, that treatments have little effect, thus most cases have an extremely poor prognosis. To achieve this, we are using in vitro mesothelioma models and cutting-edge analytical techniques.

This project is close to my heart not only due to the potential impact the research might have on thousands of lives but also because of the people involved. Our partners include renowned scientists from the University of Hawaii and Loughborough University, asbestos experts from Santia Asbestos Management, NHS Sheffield Teaching Hospital pathologists, and last but not least, the lovely people from The June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund and everyone who donated and made this research possible.

MSTO-211H treated for 48 hours with Actinolite

MSTO-211H treated for 48 hours with Crocidolite

UICC reference media samples in preparation in the Santia lab

Case Study Testimonial “I am passionate about research and the fundamental underpinning role it has to play in advancing our weight of scientific knowledge and the resulting improvements in diagnosis and treatment of disease. Research is everything, it is our future, and I’m absolutely delighted that Santia are in a position to support Oana in offering our knowledge, expertise and access to facilities to help fulfill her research goal. I wish Oana the very best of luck with her work and would like her to know that Santia are here to support her every step of the way” Case Study Testimonial

Will Deverill, Technical Director, Santia Asbestos Management Ltd

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