Early treatment for mesothelioma is critical for overall survival. Researchers from Italy may have found a biomarker that can identify malignant pleural mesothelioma up to five years before a clinical diagnosis.
This is an important area of research for mesothelioma because it is hard for doctors to diagnose this disease until it has become too difficult to treat. The sooner that doctors can diagnose a patient with mesothelioma, the sooner they can begin life-saving treatment.
In addition, the current diagnosis methods involve surgically removing cancerous tissue for testing. This type of procedure can be hard even for healthy patients. Because of this, patients who are already too sick from mesothelioma might not be able to get a proper diagnosis.
MicroRNA in Mesothelioma
The researchers in this study focused on extracellular vesicles (EVs) that contain microRNA. EVs are small spheres that help different cells in your body “communicate” with each other. They contain microRNAs, which are tiny non-coding bits of RNA. They play an important role in 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.
If doctors could reliably use microRNAs to find mesothelioma in patients before they became too sick, it would be much easier to treat these patients. It could improve overall survival and quality of life for people with mesothelioma.
The researchers in this study wanted to find out if the microRNA found in EVs in pre-clinical MPM cases could be used to identify MPM before a typical diagnosis.
Improving the Diagnosis
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort involves 23 cancer centers from 10 countries in Europe. The study researchers used samples from 82 mesothelioma patients from this cohort.
After sequencing the microRNA profiles, the researchers were able to identify a 3-microRNA panel could identify mesothelioma.
This microRNA panel could be used in combination with other biomarkers like proteins or DNA methylation to improve the diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Casalone E, Birolo G, Pardini B, et al. Serum Extracellular Vesicle-Derived microRNAs as Potential Biomarkers for Pleural Mesothelioma in a European Prospective Study. Cancers (Basel). 2022;15(1):125. Published 2022 Dec 25. doi:10.3390/cancers15010125. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9817828/