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Could Lipids Hold the Key to Improving the Mesothelioma Diagnostic Process?

mesothelioma diagnostic processA new Chinese report suggests that molecules called lipids could hold the key to improving the mesothelioma diagnostic process.

Mesothelioma is rare and hard to treat. It is critical to diagnose it accurately and as early as possible for the best outcomes. But the mesothelioma diagnostic process can be complex and difficult. 

The Chinese researchers compared the amounts and types of lipids in the blood of mesothelioma patients to those in the blood of healthy people. They discovered five lipids that were higher in the mesothelioma patients and 29 that were lower. 

The information could help doctors refine the mesothelioma diagnostic process. It could also help them determine how a patient is doing on a particular treatment. 

Lipids and the Need for a Mesothelioma Test

Lipids are organic compounds that cannot be dissolved in water. Fats are one type of lipid. Oils, hormones, and some components of cellular membranes are also lipids. 

Lipids are a part of some of the body’s most vital processes. Lipids function as storehouses for energy. They perform important signaling tasks in the body. And they make up the membranes that separate cells from each other. 

More recently, science shows that lipids may play a role in the formation of tumors. It is this function of lipids that led Chinese researchers to believe that they might be useful in the mesothelioma diagnostic process. 

Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the membranes around organs. It is caused by exposure to asbestos. But there is usually a multi-year latency period between exposure and mesothelioma diagnosis. 

There is no single test to identify this cancer. Doctors usually have to look at imaging scans, exams, patient history, blood and lung fluid, and biopsies to make a definitive diagnosis. Even then, the mesothelioma diagnostic process does not always produce accurate results. 

Refining the Mesothelioma Diagnostic Process

The new study took place at The Cancer Hospital of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences. Researchers collected plasma samples from 25 malignant mesothelioma patients (MM) and 32 healthy people (HC). 

They used an advanced process called high-throughput liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to analyze the diagnostic and prognostic value of different lipids. 

The team identified six lipids with value for the mesothelioma diagnostic process. They also found two molecules associated with shorter mesothelioma survival and one that might be beneficial.

“Our study revealed differentially expressed lipid patterns in MM and HC,” writes lead investigator Zhongjian Chen. “Ceramides showed outstanding diagnostic performance, while TG [triglycerides] and Hex1Cer [monohexosylceramide] exhibited significant prognostic values.”

Dr. Chen and colleagues say these results should be verified in a larger study. Other studies might also be able to determine exactly why certain lipid levels are different in mesothelioma patients. 


Chen, Z, “Lipid Profiling in Malignant Mesothelioma Reveals Promising Signatures for Diagnosis and Prognosis: A Plasma-Based LC-MS Lipidomics Study”, November 26, 2021, Online ahead of print, Clinica Chimica Acta, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0009898121004149?via%3Dihub

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