New Study Shows Promise in a Finding a Blood Test to Detect Mesothelioma

Study results published in the October 13 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (Asbestos Exposure, Pleural Mesothelioma, and Serum Osteopontin Levels) point to the possibility of a blood test to detect mesothelioma in its early stages. Mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure, has an average survival time after diagnosis of nine to twelve months, so the ability to detect the cancer earlier may mean better opportunities for treatment and overall better survival times. Although unlike breast and colon cancers, early detection hasn’t been proven to result in improved outcomes.

The study, authored by Dr. Harvey Pass of the New York School of Medicine, detected the protein osteopontin in elevated levels in the blood of mesothelioma patients as compared to patients exposed to asbestos, but not suffering from mesothelioma. The 190 people who took part in the study included 76 mesothelioma patients, 69 individuals with non-malignant asbestos-related pulmonary disease, and 45 people with no asbestos exposure.

Osteopontin levels in individuals exposed to asbestos but without cancer and people with no asbestos exposure were similar. Mesothelioma patients, however, had osteopontin levels six times as high, even during early stages of the disease. Currently, only 5% of mesothelioma patients are diagnosed in early stages, when surgical removal of the tumor may prove the most beneficial.

Critics are quick to point out that the study is not yet conclusive; CT scans and further testing are still currently required to conclusively determine mesothelioma. Additionally, osteopontin may be elevated in individuals suffering from disease other than mesothelioma. Although a definitive blood test to detect mesothelioma is yet to be finalized, even critics applaud the research and the promise it holds for mesothelioma patients.

About 2,500 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year, however, the lack of a national registry means many cases may go unreported. The long latency period, often decades, means that number may increase in years to come, making a mesothelioma blood test a potentially vital tool in the treatment of this asbestos-related cancer.

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