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Identifying New MicroRNA Tumor Biomarkers for Mesothelioma

Identifying New MicroRNA Tumor Biomarker for Mesothelioma Identifying New MicroRNA Tumor Biomarkers for Mesothelioma

Italian researchers have taken an important step forwards in what amounts to a microRNA tumor biomarker for mesothelioma.

Exposure to asbestos fibers causes malignant pleural mesothelioma. An early diagnosis and comprehensive health monitoring is vital for patients exposed to asbestos fibers. Researchers at the University of Catania in Italy say these two clinical issues “may be solved by the identification of specific biomarkers.”

A new article in Nature Scientific Reports identifies RNA molecules could serve as a microRNA signature for mesothelioma. This “signature” could help doctors distinguish mesothelioma from other types of cancer.

The Challenge of Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Pleural mesothelioma is particularly hard to diagnose. The early symptoms of mesothelioma are similar to the symptoms of many other lung conditions. They are also similar to lung cancer.

One of the symptoms of mesothelioma is pleural effusion. Lung cancer and several other types of cancer can also cause pleural effusion. As lung fluid builds up, it gets harder for patients to breathe. Often, doctors drain this fluid to help with symptoms.

Under a microscope, this fluid can help show if a patient has cancer. But it is difficult to tell if the cancer cells floating in the fluid came from a mesothelioma tumor or another kind of cancer.

That is where having a clear microRNA signature for mesothelioma could be useful. If a sample contained that unique set of markers, it could be an indication that the patient probably has mesothelioma.

In Search of a MicroRNA Tumor Biomarker for Mesothelioma

MicroRNAs are tiny non-coding bits of RNA. They play an important role in regulating gene expression inside cells, including mesothelioma cells.

MicroRNAs are well-known signposts or “biomarkers” for several types of cancer. Biomarkers offer a simple, inexpensive, and minimally invasive way to look for cancer.

But there are hundreds of microRNAs. If doctors do not know exactly which ones are linked to mesothelioma, they cannot use them to diagnose it. As Dr. Carla Loreto states, “finding potential biomarkers is a very difficult aim that provides a lot of research work.”

Interactive Mesothelioma-Based Network

In this latest report, researchers were able to compare microRNAs of normal mesothelial and malignant mesothelioma cells. This is important for finding a mesothelioma microRNA tumor biomarker and diagnosing mesothelioma earlier.

The team was able to do this by using a new interactive mesothelioma-based network. This network allowed the team to compare tumor and non-tumor samples. And they were able to analyze samples based on asbestos exposure rates.

This is the first time anyone has analyzed these molecules in the context of mesothelioma using in vitro systems.

Dr. Veronica Filetti from the Department of Biomedical and Biotechnological Sciences, University of Catania, states that “Early detection of…tumor biomarkers represents one of the most promising strategies to enhance the survival of cancer patients…”

This important work is the first step in validating a new mesothelioma biomarker. The Italian team hopes to use this method in a liquid biopsy in the future. This would provide a minimally invasive screening method for the prevention of mesothelioma.


Filetti, Veronica, Alessandro La Ferlita, Antonio Di Maria, Venera Cardile, Adriana CE Graziano, Venerando Rapisarda, Caterina Ledda, Alfredo Pulvirenti, and Carla Loreto. “Dysregulation of microRNAs and tRNA-derived ncRNAs in mesothelial and mesothelioma cell lines after asbestiform fiber exposure.” Scientific Reports 12, no. 1 (2022): 1-21. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-13044-0

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