Malignant mesothelioma is the deadliest of several diseases and conditions associated with exposure to asbestos.
Because scientists are still not sure why some people exposed to asbestos develop mesothelioma while others do not, asbestos exposed individuals have had to wait for mesothelioma symptoms to appear before seeking any kind of intervention. But a new kind of test could change that.
New Test for Mesothelioma
The new cancer blood test is being developed by a biotechnology firm in Louisiana and tested in Australia where the incidence of mesothelioma is among the highest in the world.
The test looks for the presence of a set of cell surface proteins called ENOX2 that are only produced by cancer cells like mesothelioma.
A new study of the test suggests that these proteins can be measured in the blood serum of asbestos-exposed workers long before they receive a mesothelioma diagnosis, potentially opening the door for earlier intervention and better mesothelioma outcomes.
Asbestos Exposure and ENOX2 Proteins
In the new study of the ENOX2 test, researchers at the University of Western Australia in Perth collected the blood serum of asbestos-exposed individuals who did not have mesothelioma symptoms.
They found that mesothelioma-specific ENOX2 protein transcript variants could be detected in the serum of participants 4 to 10 years prior to a clinical diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, with an average time to disease development of 6.2 years.
Just as importantly, these proteins were not found in 14 of 15 subjects who developed benign lung disease related to their asbestos exposure.
What Could a Mesothelioma Test Mean?
While there is still no mesothelioma cure, a test that detects the disease in its earliest stages has the potential to impact mesothelioma survival.
A diagnosis prior to the development of mesothelioma symptoms could allow doctors to begin chemotherapy or even remove a tumor before it has a chance to grow and spread.
In addition to allowing for earlier detection of mesothelioma, the developers of the new test, MorNuCo, Inc., say ENOX2 proteins could also offer a new kind of mesothelioma treatment.
“From the standpoint of early intervention, they are targets for inhibition of growth of tumor cells and induction of apoptosis [cell death],” states the company’s website. “Our approach is to utilize ENOX2 both as a target for early detection and for early intervention.”
Morre, DJ, “ENOX2-based early detection (ONCOblot) of asbestos-induced malignant mesothelioma 4-10 years in advance of clinical symptoms”, January 22, 2016, Clinical Proteomics, eCollection
“ENOX2 and Cancer”, MorNuCo, Inc. website