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New Blood Test Diagnoses Mesothelioma Sooner

Researchers say a new blood test can accurately diagnose stage 1 and 2 malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) sooner, giving sufferers hope for better treatment, longer life spans, and a higher quality of life.   

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is type of lung cancer that is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers.  The number of patients suffering this incurable disease continues to increase both in the United States and globally.  Mesothelioma has a latency period of 10 to more than 50 years, so the rate of mesothelioma is not expected to crest for some time.  Some estimates put the annual death rate attributable to this type of cancer at around 15,000 to 20,000 worldwide.

The new test can detect the deadly disease sooner than any other on the market—even before patients begin to manifest symptoms of mesothelioma.  This is good news because, generally speaking, only patients in the earliest stage of the disease (stage 1) respond well the various types of therapy available.

A joint team of researchers from the Langone Medical Center and the NYU Cancer Institute in New York under the leadership of doctor Harvey I. Pass vetted the test which was designed to identify and measure 19 biomarkers of pleural mesothelioma.  Biomarkers are molecules which are found in the blood which can either confirm or deny the existence of serious health conditions.  In the past, similar biomarker tests have been used to diagnose HIV, other forms of cancer, and even certain types of heart disease.

Doctor Pass, director of the division of thoracic surgery and thoracic oncology at NYU, evaluated SomaLogic’s new test for the National Cancer Institute’s Early Detection Research Network Biomarker Discovery Lab.  Pass found that it can definitively “identify proteins secreted from cancerous tumors caused by asbestos exposure.” 

Using blood samples from 170 patients (90 of whom had been previously diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma) the biomarker test accurately identified 15 of 19 cases of malignant pleural mesothelioma.  While that’s only an 80 percent effectiveness rate, this new test is hailed as a success because it is able to identify mesothelioma at such an early stage. 

Currently, only 10 to 15 percent of mesothelioma patients are diagnosed with the disease while in stage 1 or stage 2—meaning that most cases are not diagnosed until the disease progresses too far to be treated with any sort of veracity.  As far as accuracy, the test was extremely precise and produced no false positives.

SomaLogic’s test uses a proteomics array based on aptamers—nucleic acids which only bind to specific proteins—to identify compounds created by mesothelioma cancer cells.  In essence, SomaLogic has created chemically modified single-stranded DNA molecules that target only these mesothelioma biomarkers.

SomaLogic Inc. has developed diagnostic tests and tools used to identify multiple diseases.  The Colorado-based company has been awarded multiple government grants to continue this unique an innovative line of research.  Indeed, they are pursuing plans to modify this aptamer test to make it more accurate, increase its efficiency, and hopefully increase that 80 percent diagnosis rate.