There has been another potential breakthrough in the ongoing worldwide effort to find an effective way to diagnose mesothelioma earlier.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a fast-growing cancer of the mesothelium. As with all cancers, early detection can greatly improve the odds of survival. But because the early symptoms can be mild or mimic other lung diseases, mesothelioma is often not definitively diagnosed until its later stages, when treatment may be less effective.
Now, a team of Austrian doctors has identified a cellular protein that they say may be a promising diagnostic marker for mesothelioma. Elevated levels of serum integrin-linked kinase, a protein associated with multiple cellular functions, have already been found in cases of ovarian cancer. To test its presence in mesothelioma cells, researchers took blood serum samples from 36 patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma, 98 patients with other types of malignant chest disease, and 23 patients with benign chest diseased. They used an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test to measure the amount of integrin-linked kinase in the serum.
The results were significant. Patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma were found to have a higher level of integrin-linked kinase (8.89 ng/mL) in their serum than the other test subjects (0.66 mg/mL for malignant chest disease, 0.78 mg/mL for benign chest disease). They found that serum integrin-linked kinase had an overall accuracy of 91% for distinguishing between mesothelioma and other diseases. The level of serum integrin-linked kinase was not affected by mesothelioma subtype and did not appear to have an impact on prognosis.
In an article in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, the researchers concluded that integrin-linked kinase can be used as another diagnostic marker for mesothelioma. Serum levels of other compounds, including osteopontin and mesothelin, are already being used, along with imaging studies like PET/CT, to aid in mesothelioma diagnosis. Identification of additional compounds and tests for them could help doctors identify mesothelioma earlier, more quickly and more accurately.
Watzka, SB et al, “Detection of integrin-linked kinase in the serum of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma, May 25, 2011, Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Epub ahead of print.