A problem for doctors trying to quickly determine whether you have mesothelioma is that sometimes it doesn’t look like mesothelioma.
Occasionally it looks like something else. And occasionally something else looks like mesothelioma.
As a result, doctors must take extra steps to be sure that the mesothelioma diagnosis they give you is reliable.
Two conditions that can be difficult to tell apart from the epithelioid and sarcomatoid forms of malignant pleural mesothelioma are mesothelial hyperplasia and fibrosing pleuritis.
The job of distinguishing these is notably tough when evaluating small biopsy specimens.
Over the years, mesothelioma researchers have tested various biomarkers to see if they could find a way to quickly differentiate these mesothelioma doppelgangers from the real thing.
Unfortunately, they haven’t had much luck. But there could be a very favorable reversal of fortunes just around the corner if research from the University of Chicago pans out.
Mesothelioma Lookalikes Complicate Diagnosis
The university’s researchers studied a powerful histochemical marker known as Glucose Transporter 1, GLUT-1 for short. It’s known as GLUT- “1” because it was the first glucose transporter to be characterized.
GLUT-1 is a uniporter protein that, in humans, is encoded by the SLC2A1 gene and facilitates the transport of glucose across the plasma membranes of mammalian cells.
The researchers theorized that GLUT-1’s immunoreactivity could serve as a viable mechanism for quickly, and correctly, sizing up the conditions that may or may not be mesothelioma.
The researchers conducted a retrospective study of biopsy specimens from 31 mesothelial hyperplasia, 29 fibrosing pleuritis, 41 epithelioid mesothelioma, and 29 sarcomatoid mesothelioma cases.
They found that more than half and almost two-thirds of the mesothelioma tumors reacted to GLUT-1.
On the other hand, none of the mesothelial hyperplasia and fibrosing pleuritis masses reacted at all to the presence of the GLUT-1.
On closer examination, the researchers also noticed that sarcomatoid mesothelioma tumors gave off the telltale reaction to GLUT-1 at a higher rate than did the epithelioid mesothelioma tumors.
Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Reacted More
Specifically, the epithelioid mesothelioma tumors reacted to GLUT-1 an average of 50 percent of the time, while the sarcomatoid mesothelioma tumors reacted an average of 72 percent of the time.
The researchers, writing earlier this year in the journal Lung Cancer, said the immunoreactivity of GLUT-1 lent solid support for a diagnosis of malignancy.
“However, a negative GLUT-1 stain did not rule out malignancy,” they cautioned.
The researchers speculated on how GLUT-1 might be improved as a mesothelioma diagnostic tool. In their view, one approach would be to pair it with the markers known as IMP-3 or p16 deletion.
These are “likely to be the optimal diagnostic panel,” they wrote.