A recent article published in the European Journal of Cancer indicates that a group of scientists and researchers has identified a novel biomarker for malignant pleural mesothelioma, a finding that could very possibly help doctors diagnose the disease at an earlier stage and, hence, save more victims from succumbing to the aggressive, hard-to-treat cancer.
The group, which hailed from a variety of countries including Switzerland, Hungary, and Austria, determined that a protein complex known as Activin A, which is found in the blood, could aid not only in early diagnosis but also accuracy of prognosis, staging, and treatment personalization for specific cases.
It’s a finding that was hailed by the oncologic community, particularly those specialists who deal in the treatment of asbestos-caused cancer.
To conduct the study, plasma samples were taken from 129 patients who had already been diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. This was done at four different institutions either right at the time of diagnosis or just before surgical resection.
In addition, 45 disease-free patients and another 16 with non-malignant pleural diseases served as the controls. Activin A was then measured and compared to clinico-pathological variables, study authors explain.
These results suggested that “the measurement of circulating Activin A may support the histological classification of MPM and at the same time help to identify epithelioid MPM patients with poor prognosis.”
The study also showed that the prognostic benefit of activin A is most effective in patients younger than 66 years of age and that the biomarker was more effective amongst those with tumors of epithelioid histology.
Up to this point, there has been only one biomarker identified in malignant pleural mesothelioma patients – soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRP)– and it has been measured for the last five years by means of the Mesomark ™ Assay, a blood test that was developed by Fujirebio Diagnostics.
The assay looks for elevated levels of SMRP, which can show up years before a mesothelioma diagnosis is made. Hence, those with the greatest risk of developing the disease can be tested regularly and the disease can be caught sooner. It is hoped that the same will eventually be true with the new biomarker, Activin A.
Mesothelioma has historically been quite difficult to diagnose as the disease lies dormant in the body for up to 50 years and, hence, it is often in its latest stages when it is finally identified. That allows for fewer treatment options and may mean that the patient is not a candidate for resection surgery, the treatment that provides the most promise for extending the life of a meso patient.
It could be several more years until this information is able to be used to properly diagnose and treat malignant pleural mesothelioma patients, but researchers consider every step towards conquering mesothelioma to be an important one as it is a disease that often claims its victims within a year of diagnosis.