From the blog

Genetic Testing for Mesothelioma

Published: August 25, 2023

A new study is showing that running genetic tests on mesothelioma patients could be useful. The study was conducted at the University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin. While the main cause of mesothelioma is asbestos, genetic mutations can also influence people getting mesothelioma. Doctors do not usually test mesothelioma patients’ genes, but researchers believe it is a good idea, especially in people with a family history of cancer. There are some mutations on specific genes like BAP1 that are common in people with mesothelioma. If gene mutations are known by doctors, they can make better treatment decisions and give better advice to families.

Researchers can now use a test that looks at genes of cancer cells. The test is also able to detect gene changes that run-in families. Researchers looked at a group of mesothelioma patients that had their cancer and normal genes tested. The goal was to find how often gene tests could find gene changes. Researchers looked at data from 161 patients with mesothelioma who had their normal genes and tumor genes tested. It was found that 78 percent of patients had genetic changes that could be important, and 16 percent had genetic changes that were confirmed to be important. The genetic changes in the confirmed to be important group could lead to risks for certain cancers. Researchers are recommending universal genetic testing for patients with mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer of the mesothelium, which is a membrane that covers different areas of the body including the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles. It is mainly caused by asbestos. Once asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they become lodged in human tissue like the membrane that surrounds the lungs known as the pleura or the membrane that surrounds the abdomen known as the peritoneum. The body cannot break them down or remove them, leading to normal cells turning into cancer cells.

Clinical trials like this one are important parts of the cancer treatment process. They help find treatments that can potentially help cancer patients, even those with rare and aggressive cancers like mesothelioma. Without these clinical trials, there would not be cures for some cancers that were once considered untreatable and deadly. Maybe one day a treatment will be discovered for mesothelioma that will cure it.

Owen D. Mitchell et al., “Germline Variants Incidentally Detected via Tumor-Only Genomic Profiling of Patients With Mesothelioma” JAMA Network Open (August 2023). [Link]
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