Biomarker test shows promise with mesothelioma diagnosis

One of the most troubling aspects of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), is its long incubation period. Asbestos fibers can be inhaled, often in an industrial setting, construction or demolition jobsite or from mining of the mineral. It is brought deep into the lungs, where it settles. It works its way into outer lung tissue, the mesothelium, lining that allows the lungs to move within the chest cavity.

There it sits, slowly over decades irritating the pleural lining, often causing asbestosis and eventually, it will trigger the development of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer. By the time the patient manifests symptoms of the disease, their survival prospects are often dim, and they often have only months to live.

As with any cancer, the earlier the disease is detected, the greater the likelihood of success in treatment. Mesothelioma in its early stages is difficult to identify, and researchers have been looking to develop faster and more accurate tests to enable diagnosis of mesothelioma early enough to improve patient survival.

Researchers working at the Copenhagen University Hospital have found biomarkers which show promise in identifying malignant pleural mesothelioma. Four microRNAs have been found that exceed the recommended diagnostic accuracy of these types of diagnostic tests.

These biomarkers can permit distinguishing of noncancerous abnormalities from mesothelioma. Prior to this research, there had been no reliable test that could make this distinction.

By allowing doctors to identify malignant pleural mesothelioma early, treatment may be better able to control this disease and offer hope to patients and their families. Early diagnosis and better treatment options could enable longer survival periods for mesothelioma victims and improved quality of life.

Source:, “Biomarkers distinguish between mesothelioma and non-cancer,” June 6, 2014