MicroRNAs May Help Detect Mesothelioma Earlier

One way you can be personally identified is by your handwriting. Malignant pleural mesothelioma can be identified in a somewhat similar way. It has a “signature” of its own.

The signature is actually certain biological traits and behaviors that are often identified with this disease. “Biomarkers” is the term used by mesothelioma doctors and researchers.

Researchers in Italy recently noticed a few previously overlooked attributes present in one particular group of mesothelioma biomarkers.

Their observation is important because it might eventually help doctors diagnose and treat mesothelioma earlier.

Early treatment of mesothelioma can improve your chances of long survival. That’s because mesothelioma is generally most responsive to treatment before it has a chance to quickly progress.

MicroRNA Associated with Mesothelioma

The mesothelioma biomarker findings here deal with microRNAs — also known as miRNAs (and sometimes further truncated as simply miRs).

MicroRNAs are mini-genes that control protein synthesis within cells. Or, as the Italian researchers explain, they are “endogenous, non-coding, small RNAs with established diagnostic value in cancer and pollution exposure.”

The researchers set forth their findings in the journal Oncotarget. They were motivated to conduct their probe because “minimally invasive, specific, and sensitive biomarkers providing early and effective diagnosis in high-risk patients are urgently needed.”

The researchers conducted a systematic review and a qualitative meta-analysis of a pool of deregulated circulating microRNAs and their tissue-based counterparts. They were looking for microRNA expression signatures of the sort that would correlate with asbestos exposure and malignant mesothelioma.

They limited their investigation to only those biomarkers most likely to have an association with malignant mesothelioma. They called these biomarkers “mesomiRs” — lab talk for mesothelioma-associated microRNAs.

In the course of this investigation, the researchers relied on what they described as a novel tallying method. They did this to allow them to factor in multiple parameters.

Their technique led them to what they considered to be a collection of very significant microRNAs. These microRNAs were then extensively tested in order to acquire insights as to their biomarker potential.

Out of this emerged a list of “mesomiRs” that looked especially promising as aids to early diagnosis. Topping this list were circulating miR-126-3p, miR-103a-3p and miR-625-3p in combination with mesothelin.

Others lower down on the list were also determined to be potentially useful biomarkers. Making the grade were miR-16-5p, miR-126-3p, miR-143-3p, miR-145-5p, miR-192-5p, miR-193a-3p, miR-200b-3p, miR-203a-3p and miR-652-3p.

The researchers concluded that all of these biomarkers should be further investigated. “Large-scale, standardized validation studies are needed to assess their clinical relevance, so as to move from the workbench to the clinic,” they wrote.

MicroRNA Is Also a Mesothelioma Therapeutic Target

The researchers saw the value of microRNA as not confined just to mesothelioma diagnosis. They said it appears to have value as a therapeutic target as well.

Other researchers agree. For example, the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute has been investigating microRNA as an agent that can be fed into mesothelioma cells via nanocells. Nanocells are basically super-miniaturized cargo ships loaded with microRNAs.

Nanocells injected near mesothelioma get taken up by the vastly larger cancer cells. Once inside, the microRNA is disgorged. The mini-gene then discombobulates the mesothelioma cell’s internal operating system.

The result is a crash of the mesothelioma cell. At least that’s what’s hoped for. In testing, the microRNA delivered by nanocells has only slowed mesothelioma, not terminated it.

The title of the Italian researchers’ article is “Diagnostic Value of microRNAs in Asbestos Exposure and Malignant Mesothelioma: Systematic Review and Qualitative Meta-Analysis.”

The work described was conducted at two facilities in the city of Ancona, Italy. They were the Laboratory of Experimental Pathology at the Università Politecnica delle Marche and the Center of Clinical Pathology and Innovative Therapy at the Italian National Research Center on Aging.