Mesothelioma is a cancer that becomes harder to fight the longer it goes undetected within you.
For that reason, cancer specialists recommend that people without mesothelioma get checked for it regularly if they were ever exposed to asbestos. Asbestos exposure is the cause of mesothelioma.
The idea is that you want to be able to start treatment as soon as mesothelioma strikes, or very soon after that. Early stage mesothelioma usually responds better to treatment than later-stage mesothelioma.
Treatment responsiveness is very important. The better your mesothelioma responds to treatment, the longer you’re likely to survive.
The problem is that early diagnosis is difficult. That’s because early stage mesothelioma acts like a number of other diseases that aren’t cancer.
Look for Mesothelioma Biomarkers
One way to tell mesothelioma apart from other diseases is to look for what are known as biomarkers. These are proteins of various kinds that diseases produce and spit out as they progress.
Mesothelioma has several biomarkers. Unfortunately, scientists don’t yet know how many different mesothelioma biomarkers there are all together.
They would like to know how many there are because a mesothelioma biomarker present in one patient won’t always be present in another — even though that second patient has mesothelioma too.
This is why scientists want to identify as many mesothelioma biomarkers as possible. More biomarker choices mean more ways to spot mesothelioma.
There are three main biomarkers that mesothelioma diagnosis specialists can currently look for as they examine asbestos-exposure victims. They are soluble mesothelin-related peptide, osteopontin and fibulin-3.
Soluble mesothelin-related peptide is known simply as SMRP. Fibulin-3 stands for epidermal growth factor-containing fibulin-like extracellular matrix protein 1 (sometimes abbreviated EFEMP1).
There may be a fourth biomarker mesothelioma doctors can look for. It’s called glycodelin.
Mesothelioma Elevates Glycodelin Levels
Researchers from Germany’s University of Heidelberg, University Hospital Heidelberg and the Translational Lung Research Center Heidelberg have for some time been aware that certain tumors give off glycodelin.
Glycodelin is a protein that helps keep the immune system from running wild. Glycodelin levels go down when the body is under attack from a virus or bacteria. The lowered glycodelin levels let the immune system unleash killer cells to naturally wipe out the invaders.
Glycodelin levels go back up to normal when the invaders are gone. However, cancer cells are a different story. Some types of cancer cells cause glycodelin levels to increase way above normal.
That has the effect of putting the immune system to sleep. Tumor cells then can grow and spread freely, with little possibility they’ll be attacked by any killer cells.
The types of tumors known to cause above-normal levels of glycodelin include melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer. Both have a lot in common with mesothelioma.
It was this commonality that got the researchers wondering if mesothelioma tumors also caused above-normal levels of glycodelin. They set up a study to investigate.
Measuring Glycodelin Levels Helps Identify Mesothelioma Cancer
The study involved a review of a large number of medical records. The records belonged to German patients with various types of thoracic diseases.
Thoracic diseases are those that affect the lungs, heart, and related organs and tissues. Mesothelioma is a thoracic disease.
Just as the researchers suspected, many of the mesothelioma patients in the study group had elevated levels of glycodelin.
This and other findings convinced the researchers that measuring glycodelin levels in a person at risk for mesothelioma could be a good way to tell very early if the cancer has started.
They also came to believe that measuring for both glycodelin and SMRP could improve doctors’ ability to predict mesothelioma survival.
The researchers explained all this in the journal Oncotarget. The title of their article is “Glycodelin is a Potential Novel Follow-Up Biomarker for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.”