Protein Can be Reliable for Diagnosing Malignant Mesothelioma
CD146, a protein molecule, has been linked to the advanced tumor stage of various malignant cancers including prostate cancer, ovarian cancer and malignant melanoma. Now scientists have found an increased presence of the protein in malignant mesothelioma, but not in non-cancerous pleural effusions. Researchers reported in an article in Modern Pathology that this distinction may offer physicians a sensitive and reliable indicator of malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Early detection of mesothelioma improves survival chances, but most often diagnoses are not made until symptoms appear and the disease has progressed to an advanced stage leaving the patient with life-threatening complications. Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive cancer primarily caused by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers, and the average survival time varies from 4 – 18 months after diagnosis.
The first symptoms of pleural mesothelioma often presented are shortness of breath accompanied by chest pain due to excess fluid around the lungs. In many cases, these pleural effusions or hardened areas on the lining of the lung can be benign. Doctors have been seeking a new way to reliably distinguish between patients with malignant mesothelioma and those with non-cancerous reactions to asbestos. The identification of CD146 in the effusions can be significant for enabling an accurate diagnosis.
Once rare, the incidence of malignant mesothelioma has been increasing worldwide and is predicted to peak around 2020. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), asbestos causes approximately half of all deaths from occupational cancer. In addition, they estimate 90,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.
The researchers also reported that a CD146 antibody may potentially be an effective treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma.