A large multi-center Australian study has revealed what researchers say could be an important new biomarker for malignant mesothelioma.
Micro RNAs, or miRNAs, are short chains of ribonucleic acid, some of which are produced in abundance by cancer cells. Using miRNA microarrays, the Australian researchers profiled plasma samples from patients with malignant mesothelioma and from healthy controls. After reviewing 90 miRNAs previously associated with mesothelioma, they found two – miR-29c and miR-92a – in particularly high amounts.
Further testing found a total of 15 novel miRNAs in the plasma of mesothelioma patients. Among them was miR-625-3p, a novel miRNA that was not only in significantly higher in concentration but could also be used to discriminate between the mesothelioma cases and the healthy plasma samples. In addition, miR-625-3p was found to be significantly higher in tumors removed from 18 mesothelioma patients who had undergone extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery.
“Our data… reveal that McR-624-3p is a promising novel diagnostic marker for malignant mesothelioma,” conclude the researcher in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology. The finding could make it possible to identify mesothelioma with a simple blood test.
Biomarkers are especially important in mesothelioma, whose symptoms tend to mimic other respiratory illnesses until the disease is in its advanced stages. MiRNAs are not the only biomarkers used to identify mesothelioma. Chemicals and proteins including serum mesothelin, osteopontin and an enzyme called MTAP are all being explored for their potential to pinpoint mesothelioma earlier.
As many as 2,500 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the U.S. Many more contract the disease in underdeveloped countries where the use of asbestos is often poorly regulated.