New Blood Test for Early Mesothelioma Detection

Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report of a new blood test developed by NYU Langone Medical Center that may detect mesothelioma in its earliest stages. This is a critical development, as the average mesothelioma patient is given less than a year to live, which is often the result of late detection.

The cancer is so difficult to detect because of the length of time it takes to develop in the body – anywhere between 20 and 50 years. Symptoms of mesothelioma are often insidious as well, and may be mistaken for other, less serious ailments, like hay fever or pneumonia. Also contributing to the lack of early detection is the cause of mesothelioma itself: exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, asbestos exposure goes largely unnoticed, as the fibers are invisible to the naked eye, odorless, and tasteless.

The blood test was developed by Dr. Harvey Pass and his team at NYU, and the results were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It involves both blood and lung fluid testing, and targets a specific protein that is present in plasma when mesothelioma is present. The protein is known as fibulin-3, and it is present in mesothelioma patients four to five times higher than in those without the illness.

Fibulin-3 is a known biomarker for mesothelioma detection, and has been the subject of numerous mesothelioma treatment methods in recent years. The protein floats around blood plasma and coats cells, and is not present in healthy people. NYU researchers identified two separate groups with known occupational exposure to asbestos: iron workers from Detroit, and insulators from New York. Both groups included patients with mesothelioma, patients who were exposed to asbestos but have not developed cancer, and patients with lung fluid build-up. The tests were conducted blindly, meaning that the doctors did not know which patients had which ailments.

The study found that fibulin-3 plasma and lung fluid levels were significantly higher when mesothelioma was present. Researchers determined that measuring fibulin-3 levels correctly identified stage one or two mesothelioma in 15 out of 19 cases, and correctly identified those not having cancer in more than 95% of cases. The tests also determined which patients had mesothelioma and which ones had different kinds of chest-tumor cancers.

Nearly ten years ago, Dr. Pass identified another potential biomarker for mesothelioma, called osteopontin. This biomarker, while promising, was not as specific as fibulin-3 in determining if someone has an early stage of mesothelioma.

The NYU study still needs to be peer-evaluated and validated, and Dr. Pass expresses great need to conduct clinical trials in those who were exposed to asbestos but do not have mesothelioma. These tests will better and more solidly determine if fibulin-3 can identify increased risk for asbestos-related cancers.

The study was presented at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, and was met with great interest. Cancer doctors, researchers and experts confirmed that a screening test like this shows much promise, however, patients should realize that new tests may come up with false positives. This could lead to unnecessary biopsies, so the screening test has to be validated and perfected before it is used nationally or globally.

Currently, only 10 to 15% of mesothelioma patients are able to detect the disease in its first or second stages, when treatments are most effective. Mesothelioma, more than almost any other cancer, is resistant to chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, so catching it in its earliest stages is crucial. The test would also be very useful in monitoring those patients who are already undergoing treatment therapies, as mesothelioma is unpredictable, and entirely unique to each patient.

Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm affirm that there is a great need for a test for early mesothelioma detection. The cancer kills 3,000 people per year, just in the United States alone. Most mesothelioma patients were exposed to asbestos while on the job – often in the construction, automotive, or shipbuilding industries – and may be entitled to compensation through a mesothelioma lawsuit. If you or someone you love was diagnosed with mesothelioma, or any other asbestos-related diseases, contact a skilled mesothelioma lawyer immediately for a free legal consultation.

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