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Sensitive Mesothelioma Test Developed

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Asbestos contribute to mesothelioma cancer

Researchers have found a more sensitive test for Mesothelioma that will allow clinicians to pinpoint the cause of lung abnormalities more accurately. Current testing involves removing fluid from the lung and testing it for the presence of abnormal cells, but the tests are not very accurate. Helen Davies, M.R.C.P., specialist registrar and research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Respiratory Medicine and Oxford University led a new study showing that by measuring the protein mesothelin in the pleural fluid of patients could provide a more sensitive mesothelioma test.

According to Davies, "Pleural effusion, or the accumulation of fluid in the pleural cavity, can be maddeningly difficult to diagnose as a wide variety of malignant and benign causes exist. One of the causes, malignant pleural mesothelioma, is a relatively rare cancer, but its incidence is rapidly increasing on a global scale.”

The study was conducted to see if measuring mesothelin would provide a better diagnostic tool for clinicians to hone in on the cause of fluid in the pleural (lung) cavity, leading to earlier diagnosis of mesothelioma.

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The researchers measured the protein mesothelin in 209 patients referred to a specialty respiratory clinic to find that mesothelin levels were over six times greater in patients with mesothelioma compared to patients with metastatic cancer, and ten times greater than in patients with benign causes of fluid in the lungs.

This study suggests a way for clinicians to more readily identify these cases from the start," said Dr. Davies. Because mesothelioma has a median survival time of 12 months, minimizing the number of invasive procedures and tests patients require is crucial to reduce morbidity and the time they need to spend in hospital. An earlier diagnosis also allows speedier interventions to relieve symptoms as well as initiation of other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy if appropriate. Claims for worker's compensation may also be instigated once the diagnosis is confirmed."

Mesothelioma, a rare lung cancer, comes primarily from asbestos exposure. In the US, exposure to asbestos has declined due to legislation. Exposure to asbestos continues in developing countries, and mesothelioma rates are expected to increase in the next two decades. The researchers say measuring mesothelin levels in pleural fluid can provide a valuable diagnostic tool for earlier diagnosis of mesothelioma.

American Thoracic Society