The reason so many people die of mesothelioma cancer is simple. Symptoms of this asbestos-caused cancer are slow to appear and by the time the disease is diagnosed, it has often reached Stage 3 or 4, making it difficult to treat and severely limiting treatment options.
Mesothelioma can take as long as three or four decades (or more) to appear and, to make matters worse, the disease is often misdiagnosed the first time around, especially if the victim does not recall being exposed to asbestos.
Ideally, a way to detect mesothelioma in its early stages is what’s needed. And though the Mesomark™ blood test – which measures the protein mesothelin – was approved for that purpose more than 10 years ago, it hasn’t made a huge difference.
However, scientists say a new blood test that measures a protein called calretinin might be the answer to diagnose mesothelioma early and more lives spared.
A study focusing on that theory was recently conducted using 200 patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma , the most common form of the disease.
Some subjects were from Australia and others hailed from Germany. Other “control” subjects from those two countries had asbestosis and/or pleural plaques.
In serum or plasma collected from participants prior to therapy, researchers estimated the performance of both markers – calretinin and mesothelin – and tested factors potentially influencing marker concentrations like age, sample storage time, and malignant mesothelioma (MM) subtype (epithelial, sarcomatoid, small cell, etc.)
The results showed that calretinin could be used as a blood-based marker for malignant mesothelioma and may perhaps be more reliable than measuring levels of the protein mesothelin.
Using both biomarkers, however, could result in even more success in detecting the disease at Stage 1 or 2. Furthermore, the study authors believe that if researchers continue to search for yet more biomarkers, the combination of all will make detection at an early stage much more likely.
Researchers penned the following conclusion:
The assay is robust and shows a performance that is comparable to that of mesothelin. Retrospective analyses would not be limited by storage time. The high specificity supports a combination of calretinin with other markers.
Calretinin is specific for epithelioid and biphasic MM but not the rarer sarcomatoid form. Molecular markers like calretinin and mesothelin are promising tools to improve and supplement the diagnosis of MM and warrant further validation in a prospective study.
In both Austria and Germany, individuals who were occupationally exposed to asbestos receive regular testing in hopes of finding any signs of the disease as early as possible.
Such a surveillance program focusing on early detection using blood tests and other methods could certainly improve therapy options and survival rates, the study authors noted.