Mesothelioma numbers in Scotland are amongst the highest in the world – a direct consequence of asbestos utilisation in heavy industries and construction over prior decades. We focus our research aspirations on improving outcomes for mesothelioma patients, including the development of new, more effective therapies and better drug delivery techniques.

Mesothelioma is currently incurable and most commonly affects the lining of the lung (the pleura). Typically, it presents 30-50 years after asbestos exposure, presenting challenges for a precise, early diagnosis. Although outcomes are variable, there are few effective treatments and many patients currently die within 12-18 months. The development of new, more effective treatments is currently hampered by a limited understanding of the biological processes driving tumour development and technical challenges in delivering drugs effectively to what is a unique anatomical location, ideally at an early stage.

Our research at the Centre builds on the CRUK Accelerator Network, PREDICT-Meso. Bringing together researchers from around the UK, Spain and Italy, and including collaborators in Canada, Belgium and Brazil, PREDICT-Meso is focused on understanding the key events driving mesothelioma evolution and the development of pre-clinical models for discovery and validation of new target-drug combinations ready for human trials. The work of the Centre mesothelioma team also includes the IAMMED-Meso Early Detection & Diagnosis Programme and the REMIT Discovery Programme, both also funded by CRUK. 


At the Scotland Centre, we are tackling mesothelioma through model refinement and the innovation of in-human imaging and direct drug delivery


In synergy with the MRC Mouse Genetics Network, the Mesothelioma team is expanding our suite of pre-clinical models which will allow the sequential loss of tumour suppressor genes and the deletion of additional, clinically relevant genes that emerge from PREDICT-Meso human analyses. Our goal is to generate further mechanistic insights into how mesothelioma develops and to refine biomarkers for diagnosis and treatment success. We are also back-translating validated human imaging tools (MRI, PET) for use as non-invasive endpoints in our mouse models of mesothelioma evolution and therapeutic response.

The Centre also has expertise in translational optical imaging and experimental medicine through the Translational Healthcare Technologies Group, including Fibre-based Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging and SmartProbes technology, which allow the study of human disease in real-time. The mesothelioma team are adapting these tools for use in the human pleural space, paving the way for future studies involving optical identification of therapy-responsive tissue and targeted intra-pleural drug delivery.

The Centre team are also addressing major challenges in the handing of pre-cancerous pleural tissue changes in patients with prior asbestos exposure. By leveraging human samples collected via the PREDICT-Meso Research Tissue Bank we are searching for precursor genomic lesions that reliably progress into various phenotypes of invasive mesothelioma. Through this work we aim to enhance risk profiling and target identification.