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Inflammation Both “Friend and Foe” in Mesothelioma

Respiratory Disease

An immune system response that causes mesothelioma symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and weight loss may also be helpful to clinicians as a way to find and treat the disease.

Scientists with The Asbestos Diseases Research Institute in Sydney, Australia make that case that both systemic inflammation (throughout the body) and at the site of a tumor – has long been associated with mesothelioma and other cancers. Inflammation results when the body attempts to address the imbalances of cancer by producing more of certain immune system cells.

Some inflammatory markers, such as CD+8 T-cells and C-reactive protein, have been linked to better prognosis in mesothelioma. Other inflammatory markers, such as certain macrophages and a high neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio, can signal the likelihood of a poorer outcome.  Measurement of inflammation can even be used to determine whether chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma is working or is likely to work.

The article’s authors say that inflammatory markers “have the potential to become valuable biomarkers” in mesothelioma but caution that more research is needed to determine what various measurements mean and to develop efficient ways to test for them. “Taken together, recent advances in our understanding of the roles of the immune system and the inflammatory response in malignant pleural mesothelioma provide the rationale for further investigation in this field,” the article concludes.

Biomarker research is especially important in mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that is challenging to diagnosis and even more challenging to treat. Inflammatory markers could not only help doctors diagnose the disease more accurately, but could also serve as a target for anti-inflammatory therapies.


Linton, A, et al, “Inflammation in malignant mesothelioma – friend or foe?”, November 2012, Annals of Cardiothoracic Surgery, pp. 516-522.

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