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Japanese Discovery Could Lead to New Mesothelioma Blood Test

mesothelioma blood testA discovery in Japan could lead to a more effective mesothelioma blood test for mesothelioma diagnosis. Japanese scientists say they have found a better way to detect mesothelioma cells in the blood. 

The scientists are experts in occupational health. Malignant mesothelioma is an occupational cancer because people can get it from working near asbestos.

Mesothelioma diagnosis is challenging. But a powerful mesothelioma blood test could make it easier to find the asbestos cancer earlier. Treatment often works better when patients start it earlier.

Circulating Tumor Cells in the Blood of Mesothelioma Patients

No matter what kind of cancer a person has, their tumor releases some cells into the blood. Mesothelioma tumors are no exception.

These circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are one  of the ways that cancer can spread. When tumor cells “land” in a new location, they may seed a new tumor.

CTCs also offer another way for doctors to detect mesothelioma and other cancers.

Making a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Unfortunately, there is no simple way to tell if a patient has malignant mesothelioma.

Right now, for a person to receive a mesothelioma diagnosis, a doctor must run many tests. Imaging scans, biopsies, and blood tests are common ways doctors try to detect mesothelioma.

Patients also have to tell their doctor about any possible exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is the number one cause of mesothelioma around the world.

In Search of a Mesothelioma Blood Test

Finding mesothelioma cells in the blood is challenging. The only FDA-cleared system for finding CTCs is called CellSearch. While CellSearch is good at finding some other types of cancer, it often misses mesothelioma cells.

In an article in Cancer Science, the Japanese team says their new system, called CTC-chip, is better at detecting mesothelioma.

CTC-chip is coated with an antibody against podoplanin. Podoplanin is a glycoprotein that is common in the blood of people with pleural mesothelioma.

Researchers tested CTC-chip on healthy blood that was spiked with mesothelioma cells. Then they tested it on the blood of mesothelioma patients.

“The CTC-chip showed superior CTC-detection performances over CellSearch in experimental models and in clinical samples,” reports lead research Kazue Yoneda.

In some cases, the mesothelioma blood test was even able to tell whether the tumor was operable. The more CTCs a mesothelioma patient had in their blood, the worse their prognosis.

More tests will be needed before the CCTC-chip would be available for use in mesothelioma diagnosis.


Yoneda, K, et al, “Detection of Circulating Tumor Cells with a Novel Microfluidic System in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma”, November 30, 2018, Cancer Science, Epub ahead of print, https://doi.org/10.1111/cas.13895

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