Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer primarily linked to asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is often fatal because it can go undetected for years and its vague symptoms easily mimic other diseases.
The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma and impacts a person’s lung lining. Currently, the main way this type of cancer is diagnosed is by a lung biopsy that contains enough tumor tissue. Mesothelioma is often in advanced stages by the time a successful biopsy occurs, which makes successful treatment of the cancer more difficult.
Australian researchers may have made a breakthrough in mesothelioma detection that may save many lives. The researchers found that some small molecules, called microRNAs, are more abundant in people with pleural mesothelioma.
“If doctors could use a diagnostic marker based on a simple blood test to help with diagnosis, it could circumvent the problem of availability of tumor tissue and help to accelerate the diagnostic process,” said a researcher from the Asbestos Diseases Research facility at Sydney’s Concord Hospital.
In the most recent study, researchers found that measuring the level of the microRNA called miR-625-3p in blood samples allowed them to distinguish patients with pleural mesothelioma from healthy patients with more than an 82 percent accuracy rate.
Generally, pleural mesothelioma patients have four times the number of miR-625-3p levels as healthy patients. This promising development will be further tested and confirmed and may eventually help save many lives through early detection.
“Should further studies prove that microRNAs in plasma are accurate enough for the diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma, this will lead to the development of a diagnostic test for routine clinical use,” a researcher said. “This test would then represent a relatively simple way to circumvent the problems associated with obtaining a tissue biopsy. For a patient, this would mean that appropriate treatment could be instituted at an earlier stage.”