An Italian research team says they have identified a protein that may help quantify risk and detect early mesothelioma in people who have been exposed to asbestos.
Doctors from three Italian universities used the Luminex Multiplex Panel Technology test to measure the serum levels of 47 different chemicals, including a range of signaling proteins called cytokines, in three groups of people. The groups tested were workers previously exposed to asbestos, people with asbestos-induced malignant mesothelioma, and healthy subjects.
In an article in the open-access online medical journal PLoS One, the team reported that 25 different cytokines linked to pulmonary inflammation and tumor development were higher in asbestos-exposed workers and mesothelioma patients than they were in healthy test subjects. In addition, tests revealed specific patterns of cytokines in the asbestos workers and the mesothelioma patients that were not present in health controls.
One specific cytokine, called RANTES, showed “an increased gradient of concentration” that was lowest in healthy subjects, higher in people who had been exposed to asbestos, and highest in people with mesothelioma. RANTES plays an active role in attracting white blood cells called leukocytes to sites in the body where inflammation is present.
“This study shows that, in subjects from an hyperendemic area for malignant mesothelioma, the C-C chemokine RANTES is associated with the exposure to asbestos fibres,” writes Manola Comar, MD, of the Department of Medical Sciences at the University of Trieste in Trieste, Italy. If the study can be verified in larger tests, Dr. Comar says RANTES may offer a way to identify asbestos-exposed workers who are at highest risk for mesothelioma or are in the beginning stages of the disease.
Mesothelioma is an extremely deadly cancer, largely because it is so difficult to detect early and there is no effective screening test for it.
Comar, M et al, “Increased Levels of C-C Chemokine RANTES in Asbestos Exposed Workers and in Malignant Mesothelioma Patients from an Hyperendemic Area”, August 27, 2014, PLoS One