From the blog

Immunology and Cytology to Diagnose Mesothelioma

Published: July 8, 2022

Researchers may have found a better, less invasive way to test for mesothelioma. Normally, a biopsy is done, which requires removing tissue to diagnose mesothelioma, but a new two-part exam might make this procedure a thing of the past. The new test utilizes cytology, which looks at cells in body fluids, and immunology, which is a study of the immune system. The Tokyo Medical University is performing the study. Researchers believe they can use a combination of immunology and cytology to create a definitive diagnosis for mesothelioma. If this is possible, patients can be diagnosed faster with less invasive procedures, improving quality of life and survival times.

Pleural mesothelioma is a rare cancer of the mesothelial membrane that surrounds the lungs. There are three cell types of mesothelioma including epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic. Doctors utilize cell type and location to determine what type of treatment will work best for a patient. The cell type for mesothelioma is only found with a biopsy, but this could change with the combination of immunology and cytology, saving elderly and sickly patients from painful and invasive procedures. This will allow doctors to diagnose patients with an easy combination of tests.

When a doctor suspects someone has cancer, a cytology test can be ordered, but utilizing cytology exams alone for mesothelioma is not recommended because the results of these tests are not always clear. This could lead to a misdiagnosis, which could prevent someone with mesothelioma from receiving the proper treatment, shortening the person’s lifespan and hurting the person’s quality of life. Most doctors feel that a cytological exam is not enough to diagnose mesothelioma. Results from this type of exam are not clear to doctors, so a supplemental test can be helpful.

Immunology is the extra step needed for testing mesothelioma. A combination of immunology and cytology could possibly offer a reliable alternative to an invasive cytology exam. Doctors would first examine the pleural fluid and then use immunology to determine if the tumors were epithelioid or a different cell type. If this process is used properly, patients could be diagnosed in a timely manner, leading to the best chance of the treatment working for the patient. If a patient is diagnosed early enough, multiple treatments can be tried to find the best treatment available.

Akira Okimura et al., “Malignant mesothelioma: Cytological features” Open Journal of Clinical & Medical Images (April 19, 2022). [Link]
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