Molecular Test Predicts If Mesothelioma Treatment Will Work for You

Thoracic surgeons attending a recent annual meeting came away enthused about a molecular test that rates the chances of your mesothelioma tumor coming back after treatment.

The test appears to have a good accuracy rate, according to validation studies. It tells whether a patient faces a low, intermediate or high risk of the tumor returning.

The test develops forecasts by taking the gene-expression profile signature of your particular mesothelioma tumor and correlating that with other lab data about your disease status.

All this information is then woven together to gauge what might happen if you elect to have one type of mesothelioma treatment versus another. The test may be able to tell you which of several possible treatment choices could be your best bet.

Raphael Bueno, M.D., believes the test results also allow local doctors to help their patients decide whether it’s worth seeking advanced help from a distant mesothelioma-specialized cancer center.

Dr. Bueno helped invent the test. In addition to teaching at Harvard Medical School, he also is the associate chief of thoracic surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Aimed at Extending Mesothelioma Survival

The test carries the formal name of DecisionDx-Mesothelioma. Two studies have been conducted so far to validate the claims.

Results of these studies were presented by Assunta De Rienzo, Ph.D., at the annual meeting of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery held in Toronto a little more than a month ago. Dr. De Rienzo co-directs the Thoracic Surgery Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

A prospective, single-center study conducted a while back offered the first indications that the test was trustworthy. A second, more recent study confirmed that finding. This one was a prospective, multicenter effort that drew on scientific assets from the National Mesothelioma Virtual Tissue Bank.

DecisionDx-Mesothelioma currently is available through a special program administered by Castle Biosciences Inc. The company is focused on molecular diagnostics and prognostics.

Castle President and CEO Derek Maetzold said, “The ability to distinguish between low- and high-risk patients is important.” It’s important because doctors, patients and loved ones need more reliable ways of selecting treatment plans that may “extend survival while maintaining a high quality of life,” Castle added.

Major Event for Mesothelioma Surgeons

The American Association of Thoracic Surgeons — AATS — is made up of the doctors who perform most of the pleural mesothelioma surgeries in the U.S. Their interest in DecisionDx-Mesothelioma is therefore understandable.

The current president of the AATS is David J. Sugarbaker, M.D. He is one of the world’s foremost mesothelioma surgeons. Before the annual meeting, Dr. Sugarbaker promised attendees they would be treated to presentations and exhibits featuring the “best science in our specialty.” He did not disappoint.

Indeed, by all indications, the week-long gathering was a huge success. It began with a two-day symposium in New York City and then relocated to Toronto for the main event.

There were technical competitions designed to challenge surgeons aiming for “Top Gun” recognition, and there were a record number of abstract submissions for all to ponder.

One of the guest speakers was Rick Pitino, head coach of the Louisville Cardinals — 2013 national collegiate basketball champions. Pitino was on hand to inspire the mesothelioma fighters and others to develop a truly winning game for the benefit of their patients.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sugarbaker took no small measure of pride in pointing out to his colleagues that Toronto happened to be the city where he received training in thoracic surgery as a young doctor.

It will be interesting to see what further innovations in mesothelioma care are unveiled the next time the thoracic surgeons meet. In 2015, the esteemed organization assembles in Seattle.