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International Team Identifies Potential New Mesothelioma Biomarker

22192140_Biomarker4A team of international researchers say they have identified a promising new biomarker for malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare but deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

A biomarker is a compound found in the tissue, blood or other body fluid that is produced in higher amounts when disease is present.

In the case of a new report presented at the annual International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer conference, the potential mesothelioma biomarker is a protein called fibroblast growth factor 18 (FGF18).

Biomarkers for Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Prognosis

The identification of potential new diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers is especially important for people with pleural mesothelioma because there is no definitive test for the disease.

Often, diagnosing mesothelioma is a process of elimination involving tests and exams as well as a careful patient history including the likelihood that the suspected mesothelioma patient was exposed to asbestos, the primary cause of mesothelioma.

Biomarkers can not only help doctors determine whether a person may have malignant mesothelioma, but can also help them distinguish it from other lung-related conditions.

Biomarkers can also be useful in treatment planning by indicating which patients are likely to respond to which kinds of mesothelioma therapies. After a mesothelioma treatment is implemented, biomarkers can be used to help monitor the success of the therapy.

A New Mesothelioma Biomarker?

FGF18, the novel mesothelioma biomarker identified in the new report, is a member of the fibroblast growth factor family. It is involved in a number of biological processes, including tissue repair, cell growth, and tumor growth and invasion.

To test its potential as a mesothelioma biomarker, researchers collected plasma samples from 107 malignant pleural mesothelioma patients at hospitals in Vienna, Zagreb, and Sydney, Australia. Plasma samples were collected either when patients were diagnosed or right before they were scheduled for mesothelioma surgery.

The study also included 49 healthy people and 8 patients with non-malignant pleural diseases to serve as controls.

Analyzing the Results

The study found that FGF18 levels were “significantly elevated” in people with mesothelioma when compared to the healthy patients. People with the sarcomatoid mesothelioma subtype had the highest FGF18 levels. The results suggest that FGF18 could also be useful in determining mesothelioma prognosis.

“Importantly, malignant pleural mesothelioma patients presenting with FGF18 levels below the median had a significantly longer overall survival when compared to those with high FGF18 levels,” states the report.

Mesothelioma patients with FGF18 levels below the median survived for a median of 625 days versus just 382 days in those with the highest FGF18 levels. The report concludes that FGF18 is “a promising blood-derived candidate biomarker in malignant pleural mesothelioma” and may be useful not only as a diagnostic tool but also to determine patient prognosis.


Dong, Y, et al, “Circulating Fibroblast Growth Factor 18 is Elected in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Patients – A Multi-Institutional Study”, Paper presented at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer annual conference, December 2016, Vienna, Austria

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