Ground-Breaking Mesothelioma Detection Study Begins – Libby, MT Residents Participating in Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF) Funded Research into Mesothelioma Serum Marker

Exciting new developments using a blood serum marker to detect cancer are being investigated in a longitudinal study in Libby, Montana. In a generous and caring humanitarian act, nearly half of Libby, Montana residents, many of whom have been exposed to asbestos, have agreed to participate in a long term study to calibrate a newly released test for the detection of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor that aggressively invades the mesothelial linings of the lungs, abdomen, heart or testicles. Mesothelial cells produce a number of soluble proteins that can be detected in the blood. Elevated levels of a particular protein called soluble mesothelin related protein (SMRP) appear to be closely tied to the presence of mesothelioma.

In a project funded by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF), the Center for Asbestos Related Disease in Libby (CARD) will be using blood samples from the community, including healthy residents with asbestos exposure and also those with proven cases of asbestos related disease, to identify the levels of SMRP in the blood.

A test for the presence of SMRP called Mesomark(TM) has been available in Australia since the fall of 2004 and became available in Europe in the spring of 2005. The test is entirely specific to mesothelioma and is 84% accurate in verifying proven cases of the tumor. To further and more accurately calibrate this SMRP test, a longitudinal study of the population of Libby will be conducted. This will allow researchers to standardize and publish the thresholds of SMRP and their meaning.

Dr. Brad Black and Dr. Harvey Pass are co-investigators of the MARF funded study. Dr. Black is currently with CARD in Libby and Dr. Pass was formerly Head of Thoracic Oncology and Senior Investigator of the Surgery Branch of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda and is currently chief thoracic surgeon at New York University.

Dr. Black explained that “We know from Australia that SMRP co-relates with proven cases of mesothelioma from Crocidolite amphiboles. The Libby study will help to establish whether SMRP can be a reliable marker for mesothelioma across different kinds of asbestos.”

Dr. Black continued, “Also, by using a much larger sample, the MARF funded study of Libby residents will hopefully establish absolute marker values that will help to improve the predictive value of SMRP as a diagnostic tool in the general population.”

Dr. Pass believes that SMRP is only the first mesothelioma marker to be identified. “Data from MARF investigators suggest that other markers, which could be complimentary and additive to SMRP, will be under investigation soon,” he said.

It is expected that blood from 1,000 members of the community of Libby Montana will be used in the study. Libby has one of the highest pleural mesothelioma cancer rates of any community in America. Libby was the site of a large deposit of asbestos, mined by the W.R. Grace Company.

Recently, W.R. Grace Executives were indicted by Federal authorities for taking insufficient measures to protect the workers and residents of Libby from the known effects of asbestos. The conflict over assigning blame for the health problems of Libby had become very difficult and divisive. However, the SMRP study has served to unite the community in the cause of working towards a cure for mesothelioma.

“CARD is a community supported institution whose mission is perfectly aligned with the goals of MARF. Our partnership is bringing together patients, doctors, families and even those who are still healthy to help in the development of a much needed diagnostic tool. With early detection we improve the chances for finding a cure for this terrible disease,” said Dr. Black.

Dr. Black will be presenting information on this study at the Second International Mesothelioma Symposium at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on Oct. 6th through 8th, 2005. Dr. Pass is co-chair of the Symposium.

Mesomark(TM) is the registered trademark of Fujirebio Diagnostics Inc.

For further information visit, or contact MARF Executive Director Chris Hahn (, 805.560.8942), or MARF Communications Director Klaus Brauch (, at 714.969.1481).

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Last update: April 01, 2019. 03:30:08 pm.