Last Updated: September 05, 2013

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What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that affects the thin layer of tissue that lines the chest, abdominal cavities, and most of the organs within them.1 This lining is called the mesothelium.

In the United States, there are roughly 3,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Exposure to asbestos is the main risk factor for developing this disease, and men tend to be more commonly affected— a fact that most likely correlates with men holding jobs where they are more likely to come in contact with it.1

The term “asbestos” refers to a group of fibrous minerals known for their heat and corrosion resistance that in the past, were often used in a variety of products such as insulation, tiles, patching compounds, and more.1 When disturbed, asbestos can shed many tiny airborne particles which can be unknowingly inhaled or swallowed. An individual might not develop symptoms of mesothelioma until 20 or more years after initial contact, and most people develop the disease after the age of 65.1

The mesothelioma project is an international collaborative effort between TCGA as well as the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom and the University of Western Australia. View additional information on mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is part of an effort to characterize rare tumor types. Read more about the Rare Tumor Projects.

What types of discoveries about mesothelioma do The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) researchers hope to make?

  • Identify novel molecular subgroups and genomic alterations that contribute to mesothelioma
  • Investigate the relationship between those affected and epidemiological factors such as geographic location, ethnicity, gender
  • Examine the effects of exposure to different types of asbestos as well as initial time of exposure and overall family history

Where can I find more information about the TCGA Research Network’s studies or studies using TCGA data?

View a list of TCGA scientific publications.

Where can I find clinical trials to treat mesothelioma that are supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI)?

View a list of NCI-supported mesothelioma clinical trials that are now accepting patients.

Selected References 

1 Malignant Mesothelioma Overview. (2012). The American Cancer Society.