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The results of recent medical studies have given new hope to doctors and patients dealing with mesothelioma. For several years, scientists have been studying a group of proteins called “biomarkers”, which can often indicate the presence of certain types of cancer. Most current tests track the concentration of individual biomarkers, such as cholesterol and glucose, but new tests may be able to track groups of biomarkers to aid in the early detection of mesothelioma and other dangerous forms of cancer.
Patients who develop malignant pleural mesothelioma often do not display symptoms until several years, even decades, after their initial exposure period to asbestos. Even then, the symptoms often resemble other respiratory diseases, from influenza to emphysema, that doctors often have a difficult time making the proper diagnosis. Once a patient receives a mesothelioma diagnosis, their prognosis is seldom bright; the typical lifespan for a mesothelioma patient is less than two years.
However, a recent study has examined how a set of biomarker tests can lead to early detection of this dangerous disease. Dr. Rachel Ostroff, a researcher with Somalogic, Inc. who directed the study, reportedly said that no individual biomarker would give doctors the needed data to make a mesothelioma diagnosis. The study tested mesothelioma patients for several different proteins and found a group that would help doctors make a more accurate and faster diagnosis.
With this early detection tool, according to Dr. Ostroff, doctors could identify patients with the disease at a point “where surgical intervention is possible and curative”. Dr. Ostroff’s research has indicated that a patient that tests positive for a range of biomarkers, possibly up to twenty, would also develop mesothelioma.
Dr. Ostroff stressed that the study is in the preliminary phases and that reliable tests available for manufacturing and use are still several years away from development. Dr. Ostroff also reportedly mentioned that biomarker research itself is still in its beginning phases. She remarked that biomarkers give doctors “a window … to what’s going on in the body”.
Dr. John Anson, a researcher on another biomarker study, reportedly said that the idea of using multiple biomarkers to determine the presence of cancer has “gained ground over the last five or six years”. While the information gathered from biomarkers is important, Dr. Anson also reportedly said that such tests should complement regular exams and other tests, rather than act as a replacement. He said that biomarker tests are one of the weapons in the “developing armory to fight cancer”.
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