German researchers have shown that a combination of protein and nucleic acid biomarkers improves the diagnostic performance of a blood-based screening test for mesothelioma compared to the use of an individual biomarker from a single molecular class.
Malignant mesothelioma, an aggressive asbestos-caused cancer with a long latency period of 40 or more years, has a low median survival rate of 9-13 months from diagnosis due to the fact that symptoms typically only occur during late stages of the disease. Diagnosis at early stages has the potential to improve therapy and survival, but the development of a reliable blood test has been hindered by the low diagnostic performance of most prominent biomarker to date for mesothelioma—mesothelin.
The biomarker mesothelin, according to the authors of a new study published online by PLUS ONE, is characterized by high specificity (89%) but low sensitivity (58%). That is, in patients with mesothelioma, blood tests that use mesothelin as a biomarker generate false positives 11% of the time and false negatives 42% of the time. The AUC (a measure of diagnostic accuracy) of mesothelin is 0.85.
By combining the protein biomarker mesothelin with the microRNA (miRNA) biomarker miR-103a-3p, the researchers improved the overall diagnostic performance of a blood-based biomarker for mesothelioma to an AUC of 0.93.
“In conclusion,” writer the authors, “we showed that the combination of mesothelin and miR-103a-3p improved the diagnostic performance of a blood-based screening test, resulting in higher sensitivity and specificity to detect malignant mesothelioma.”
Malignant mesothelioma is a form of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that surrounds the lungs, abdomen and heart. Asbestos exposure in the only proven cause of mesothelioma.
Up to 3,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed in the United States each year, with 85,000 U.S. cases expected until 2054.
Anyone who was exposed to asbestos in the past—or who worked in occupations at risk for exposure—should be aware of mesothelioma symptoms, which include chest or abdominal pain, shortness of breath, and unusual lumps in affected areas.
Because early diagnosis is the key to a favorable prognosis, schedule a doctor visit immediately if you have symptoms that might indicate mesothelioma.
Know more about Mesothelioma and how you can deal with it.
- (new study published online by) PLUS ONE