Researchers are cautiously optimistic that a new means of detecting pleural mesothelioma biomarkers could improve diagnosis methods.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that Fibulin-3 works as a biomarker for pleural mesothelioma, which could lead to earlier detection of the fatal cancer, which is caused by exposure to asbestos. Fibulin-3 may also work as a biomarker for other forms of mesothelioma, but researchers say more testing is needed.
The study looked at fibulin-3 levels in plasma and effusions from more than 300 subjects, finding that plasma fibulin 3 levels were significantly higher among patients with pleural mesothelioma than in patients without the disease. Testing effusions yielded similar results.
Researchers also found that when they tested for fibulin-3 in both plasma and effusion they were able to distinguish mesothelioma effusions from other malignant and benign effusions.
Mesothelioma, which is a rare form of cancer found in the lining of the chest and lungs, which is only known to occur as a result of exposure to asbestos. The disease has a very long latency period, and is often not discovered until decades after exposure to asbestos, leading to a limited life expectancy after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Although it is too early to determine whether the discovery of this biomarker may lead to earlier diagnosis, that could change the outlook and treatment options for individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Asbestos was widely used in a variety of manufacturing and construction applications throughout the last century, with use peaking in 1973. Most uses of asbestos were banned in the mid-1980s. When inhaled, asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Asbestos litigation is the longest running mass tort in U.S. history, with the first case filed in 1929. Over 600,000 people have filed lawsuits against 6,000 defendants after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or other asbestos-related diseases.