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Gene Test To Help Doctors Determine Which Mesothelioma Patients Best Suited For Surgery

mesothelioma cancer

Mesothelioma, a cancer caused by inhaling asbestos, poses a challenge to doctors seeking to determine the best treatment options for patients and which patients will benefit from aggressive surgery.

A new gene profiling test developed and validated by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston may help doctors predict the survival of patients undergoing radical surgery to remove mesothelioma tumors. The test relies on molecular markers and gene-ratio based prognostic tests to predict outcomes for mesothelioma patients.

Castle Biosciences, Inc., a cancer diagnostics company that focuses on rare cancers, announced in a press release this that it had acquired the worldwide technology rights related to the gene expression profiling test. The test is known as DecisionDx-Mesothelioma. According to its current timeline, the company said it expected that the test would be available for order by licensed physicians before the end of 2012.

“Mesothelioma is a heterogeneous disease with some people doing relatively well with surgery and others not,” said Raphael Bueno, associate chief of thoracic surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School who led the team that developed the test. “This test is a tremendous advance in the clinical management of mesothelioma patients.”

An aggressive surgical procedure such as an extrapleural pneumonectomy that involves removal of a lung and surrounding diseased tissue is complex and involves a lengthy recovery for patients. Some patients do not survive the mesothelioma surgery or have diminished quality of life without added benefit. The new test is designed to help doctors better predict which mesothelioma patients will benefit from surgery.

Approximately 2,500 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States every year. The treatments for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation as well as emerging alternative treatments. Bueno said the molecular test would help identify which patients would benefit from surgery and assist with further treatment planning.

People diagnosed with mesothelioma are typically older workers, retired workers and veterans who were exposed to asbestos fibers in a workplace or during military service. The disease typically takes 20 years to 50 years to appear after exposure to asbestos. But once symptoms appear, the disease often advances quickly. Treatments to manage the disease are available when mesothelioma is diagnosed early.

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