Mesothelioma biomarkers at lung conference

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma, and is a cancer of the lining of the lung (the pleura) caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. How the patient does depends on when the mesothelioma is diagnosed. Unfortunately, in many patients, it is only picked up at a late stage. Biomarkers are in development, and some of those presented at the 3rd European Lung Cancer Conference may help to make this diagnosis earlier.

The final confirmation of a mesothelioma diagnosis is often dependent on a biopsy, which is invasive and unpleasant, and the process of getting a useful tissue sample can delay diagnosis even further. A team of researchers from Australia presented data at the meeting on the possible use of miRNAs as a blood test for mesothelioma, which would be quicker, easier, less invasive, and quite possibly cheaper than getting a tissue sample. After looking at blood samples from people with mesothelioma and healthy people, the team found an miRNA (a short piece of non-coding genetic material), called miR-625-3p, the level of which was up to four times higher in mesothelioma and mesothelioma tumor samples, but not in healthy people or healthy pleural tissue.

"Detailed analyses of our two independent sample series have shown that miR-625-3p performs as well as any previously proposed protein marker for detecting mesothelioma," said presenter Dr. Michaela Kirschner from the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute.

In another study presented at the same conference, U.S. and European researchers used mass spectroscopy (MS) techniques to find a panel of 56 glycopeptide biomarkers on mesothelioma cell surfaces.

Further studies are needed, especially as both studies were in small groups, but these biomarkers, alone or in combination with other tests, could help physicians to spot malignant pleural mesothelioma earlier and improve patients' chances of survival.

- read the press release
- see the abstracts from the conference