Earlier Mesothelioma Diagnosis May Be Possible with 3-Biomarker Test

You have a better chance of extending your survival after mesothelioma strikes if the disease is diagnosed early — and reliably.

But that’s easier said than done because mesothelioma often defies early and sure diagnosis. The reason is that mesothelioma looks a lot like a number of other cancers.

When mesothelioma is mistaken for some other cancer, treatments designed to knock down that other cancer are the ones first prescribed. Those treatments may be very effective at combating that other cancer, but not mesothelioma.

Weeks may pass before doctors are finally able to determine with certainty that what’s growing and spreading on your lungs or abdominal wall is mesothelioma and not the other cancer as originally thought.

In other words, the treatment up to that point was a waste of time because it wasn’t the right one. If your mesothelioma had been promptly diagnosed, the right treatments would have been prescribed and no time would have been wasted.

That would have put you ahead of the game. Instead, when time is wasted, mesothelioma ends up ahead. That forces you into the position of playing catch-up.

A number of scientists from around the world have pooled their knowledge and talents to address this problem. They’ve now come up with an approach they believe will result in earlier and surer mesothelioma diagnosis.

“Malignant mesothelioma is a highly aggressive tumor with poor prognosis,” they wrote. “A major challenge is the development and application of early and highly reliable diagnostic markers.”

Their approach involves combining two epigenetic biomarkers with a soluble mesothelin-related protein biomarker. They wrote about their concept in a recent issue of the journal Lung Cancer.

Combining SMRPs with Biomarkers Helps Identify Mesothelioma

Abbreviated SMRPs, soluble mesothelin-related proteins, are the most frequently used among biomarkers to tell diagnosticians that malignant mesothelioma might be lurking within the body.

However, SMRPs have a major drawback. Their low sensitivity causes the strength of the mesothelioma-indicating signal they emit to be weak.

The researchers found that looking for the two epigenetic biomarkers along with SMRPs overcomes this problem. “The combination of the three biomarkers turned out to be the best predictor to differentiate malignant mesothelioma,” the researchers wrote.

In this study, the two epigenetically regulated biomarkers utilized as SMRP helpers were microRNA-126 and methylated thrombomodulin promoter.

The greater degree of mesothelioma identification accuracy made possible by using the three biomarkers was borne out by testing with a second set of patients, the researchers said.

Mesothelioma Study Involved Almost 200 Patients

The study was built around a total of 188 subjects — 99 of whom had been exposed to asbestos. Among the 188 were 45 malignant mesothelioma patients.

The researchers were from centers in Europe and Australia. Researchers based in Italy were affiliated with Polytechnic University of Marche in Ancona, IRCCS Orthopaedic Institute Rizzoli in Bologna and the University of Trieste.

Other researchers hailed from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia and from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic in Prague.

The title of their article in Lung Cancer was “Combined Circulating Epigenetic Markers to Improve Mesothelin Performance in the Diagnosis of Malignant Mesothelioma.”