Researchers from New York University Langone Medical Center presented promising research this week on a new diagnostic test designed to identify mesothelioma at an early stage.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen associated with breathing asbestos dust. Because the diagnosis is difficult, the asbestos-related cancer often goes undetected until it has reached an advanced stage, limiting patients’ treatment options.
The NYU cancer researchers used a a new diagnostic blood assay test to identify proteins secreted by malignant mesothelioma tumors. Developed by the biotechnology company SomaLogic Inc., the test measures protein biomarkers found in the blood. Using the simple blood test, the NYU researchers identified 19 biomarkers associated with malignant mesothelioma. The aim is to detect mesothelioma early enough to allow for effective treatments, and improve survival rates and the quality of life for patients with mesothelioma.
In a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, the research team, led by NYU cardiothoracic surgeon Harvey Pass, reported comparing 170 blood samples from 90 patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and 80 patients who had been exposed to asbestos, but who had not diagnosed with cancer. Using the protein detection assay, the researchers detected 15 of 19 cases of stage 1 or stage 2 malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Between 1940 and 1979, approximately 27.5 million people were exposed to asbestos in workplaces in the U.S. Symptoms of mesothelioma typically take 20 to 40 years to appear after asbestos exposure so many people will be diagnosed with mesothelioma in the coming decades who were exposed to asbestos in the 20th century.
Approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the U.S., and the researchers estimated the disease would not peak for another 20 years.