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Protein Overexpression Points to Pleural Mesothelioma

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Proteins are essential for normal cell structure and function and can support critical biological processes such as enzymes for metabolism and antibodies for immune defense. However, when a protein becomes over-expressed it can lead to illness and disease. Now, researchers report that high levels of the protein FGF18 can point to pleural mesothelioma.

Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, joined by scientists from Switzerland and Australia, reported at the 17th Annual World Conference on Lung Cancer in Austria in Dec. that the Fibroblast Growth Factor 18 (FGF18) pointed to malignant pleural mesothelioma when overexpressed and could be used as both a diagnostic and prognostic marker.

The researchers measured levels of FGF18 in 107 patients with pleural mesothelioma and 49 healthy volunteers. They found that the plasma levels of FGF18 was “significantly elevated” in the mesothelioma patients. In addition, they found that the mesothelioma patients with FGF18 levels below the median had “significantly longer overall survival” than those patients with high FGF18 levels.

“The identification of novel biomarkers is urgently needed in order to identify patients with a better prognosis and to support personalized therapeutic decisions,” noted the authors. “In our previously published study, we were able to show that fibroblast growth factor 18 (FGF18) is overexpressed in MPM [malignant pleural mesothelioma] tissue specimens and cell models.”

FGF18, according to the GeneCards website, plays an important role in the regulation of cell proliferation. The protein is in a variety of biological processes including embryonic development, cell growth, and tumor growth and invasion.

Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer that develops decades after exposure to the mineral asbestos. The microscopic fibers are inhaled and become embedded in the lining of the lungs where they eventually become inflamed and can lead to cancer. Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with the terminal cancer each year.

Continued research into finding the biomarkers that can lead to mesothelioma and effective treatments for those biomarkers is critical to increase survival for patients. The prognosis for mesothelioma patients is often less than 18 months.

To find out more about this study see the January 2017 issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

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