Lugano-CH/Aurora-US-CO/Geneva-CH, 18 April 2012 -- New results presented at 3rd European Lung Cancer Conference in Geneva, Switzerland show important steps being made to improve the diagnosis and treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the outer lining of the lungs caused by asbestos exposure.
Micro RNAs speed diagnosis
Australian researchers have identified a small molecule that is more abundant in the blood of people with the deadly lung disease mesothelioma than in healthy people. Their findings bring scientists a step closer to being able to diagnose mesothelioma earlier than is currently possible.
At present diagnosing mesothelioma depends on the availability of a lung biopsy that contains enough tumor tissue. However suitable biopsies are not always available, which can leave doctors uncertain about the patient's diagnosis, sometimes resulting in a delay to the start of treatment. "If doctors could use a diagnostic marker based on a simple blood test to help with diagnosis, it could circumvent the problem of availability of tumor tissue and help to accelerate the diagnostic process," says Dr Michaela Kirschner from the Asbestos Diseases Research (Concord Hospital Campus) in Sydney, who reported the new findings.
So far a number of proteins have been proposed as blood-based markers for malignant pleural mesothelioma; however none of these has so far reached the accuracy required for routine clinical use.
In the new study, Dr Kirschner and colleagues explored whether molecules known as microRNAs in blood could serve as a diagnostic marker for the disease. Studying 5 patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma and 3 healthy controls, they identified 17 microRNAs with significantly differential abundance in the two groups. They then validated these miRNAs in a series of blood samples from 15 patients and 13 controls. These studies revealed that the level of a particular microRNA
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European Society for Medical Oncology