You were exposed to asbestos and that’s got you worried. You’re worried because you know that exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma.
You don’t have mesothelioma. But you would like to be told ahead of time if you’re going to get it, so that you can prepare yourself and your loved ones.
Right now there’s no way to be able to tell with any reliability if you’re going to develop mesothelioma. There is no test you can take to tell if mesothelioma is or isn’t in your future.
However, researchers in Italy recently announced that they have made progress toward just such a test.
It’s all still theoretical at this stage. But they believe it may be possible to develop a mesothelioma prediction test.
As these researchers see it, you would go to your doctor to get blood drawn. Then, the sample collected would be sent to a lab. The lab would analyze the sample for signs of dysregulated microRNA molecules.
Certain MicroRNAs May Signal Mesothelioma
MicroRNA molecules belong to a family of small noncoding ribonucleic acids. Ribonucleic acids help make accurate copies of the genes stored inside each cell of your body.
It was previously known that some microRNAs stop working properly when cells turn cancerous. Scientists refer to this improper operation as microRNA dysregulation.
MicroRNAs no longer look or act the way they’re supposed to once they become dysregulated. In a way that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing because it turns microRNAs into indicators showing you probably have cancer.
The researchers from Italy have taken this one step farther. They identified three specific microRNAs that seem to signal when mesothelioma is coming. The three microRNAs are miR-197-3p, miR-1281 and miR-32-3p.
Mesothelioma Patients Had Higher Levels of 3 Micro-RNAs
The researchers located these three microRNAs by first looking at 1,201 different microRNAs taken from the blood of 30 adults.
Of these adults, 10 were healthy and had never been exposed to asbestos. Another 10 had been exposed at work to asbestos but did not yet have mesothelioma.
The remaining 10 also had been exposed to asbestos but were mesothelioma patients.
The researchers observed that each group of people in this investigation had a different number of dysregulated microRNAs in them.
The never-exposed healthy adults had 145 dysregulated microRNAs. The mesothelioma patients had 119. The exposed but mesothelioma-free individuals had just 42. The researchers said these differences were significant.
The researchers also thought it significant that 67 of the dysregulated microRNAs in the healthy adults showed up in the mesothelioma patients as well.
But it was miR-197-3p, miR-1281 and miR-32-3p that stood out most of all. After more analysis, the researchers came to the conclusion that these three are responsible for helping mesothelioma get started.
The researchers explained that a blood test to check for an increase in miR-197-3p, miR-1281 and miR-32-3p might be a way to give early warning that mesothelioma is on the way.
That could be huge, because discovering and beginning treatment of mesothelioma at the earliest possible time is key to long survival.
However, the researchers cautioned that a lot more study is needed to verify these findings and conclusions. A test to tell you if mesothelioma is coming before you actually have it could still be years away.
The researchers spelled all this out in an article published in the online journal Oncotarget. The title of that article is “Circulating MicroRNAs Found Dysregulated in Ex-Exposed Asbestos Workers and Pleural Mesothelioma Patients as Potential New Biomarkers.”
They are from Italy’s University of Ferrara, University of Trieste and University of Bologna. Other authors are from Transfusion Medicine and the Mesothelioma BioBank at City Hospital in Alessandria.