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New Marker for Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Follow-up

10134823_biomarker3A protein most often used to measure the risk level in pregnancy may also offer a more reliable way to diagnose malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Pleural mesothelioma is a highly aggressive cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Right now, there is no easy or definitive way to diagnose it and doctors have to rely on some combination of patient history, imaging studies, biopsy and blood tests.

But a newly-identified mesothelioma blood biomarker called glycodelin may help. Past studies have found that pregnant women with lower levels of this protein were at higher risk of pregnancy loss.

Testing a New Mesothelioma Biomarker

To test glycodelin’s value in mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment monitoring, German researchers at the University of Heidelberg measured glycodelin levels in the blood serum of people with a variety of malignant and nonmalignant lung diseases, including mesothelioma.

They found that glycodelin was highly expressed in malignant pleural mesothelioma tumors. A biopsy of tumor tissue also found that another form of glycodelin called glycodelin A was not only expressed but also correlated with mesothelioma survival. Patients with the highest glycodelin serum levels had the worst overall survival.

Distinguishing Pleural Mesothelioma from Other Lung DIseases

The German tests showed that glycodelin levels were not nearly as high in people with nonmalignant diseases like COPD or pleurisy, although people with non-small cell lung cancer did express the protein.

To help distinguish pleural mesothelioma from lung cancer, the researchers tried using the glycodelin test in combination with a test for another mesothelioma biomarker called soluble mesothelin-related peptide (SMRP).

“A comparison of SMRP and glycodelin serum measurement in a large patient cohort demonstrated that the detection of both soluble factors can increase the reliable diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma,” concludes lead researcher Dr. Marc Schneider in Oncotarget. “Altogether, glycodelin seems to be a new potential biomarker for aggressive malignant pleural mesothelioma.”

Monitoring Mesothelioma Patient Progress

Glycodelin also proved to be valuable for another purpose in mesothelioma treatment; tests showed that it could be used to monitor how well a tumor was responding to therapy.

“The glycodelin serum levels correlated with the tumor response to treatment,” reports Dr. Schneider.

Therapy often managed to help bring down glycodelin levels in the mesothelioma patients tested, but it gradually rose again as their tumors progressed.


Schneider, M, et al, “Glycodelin is a potential novel follow-up biomarker for malignant pleural mesothelioma”, October 4, 2016, Oncotarget

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