Biomarkers are measureable substances that indicate if someone has a disease. Doctors and researchers are able to find different substances within a person’s body and deduce that the person has a specific type of cancer. Researchers have found a relatively new biomarker called microRNA, which could possibly be used to diagnose mesothelioma. MicroRNAs control gene expression and can be found in all different types of cells and within bodily fluids including blood, saliva, and urine. They are quantifiable and very stable, which makes them a great way to detect cancer in a person.
Mesothelioma has always been a difficult cancer to diagnose. It shares symptoms with other cancers and diseases and doctors do not always think of mesothelioma first. Patients also need to be exposed to asbestos before diagnosis, and not everyone knows his or her exposure history. Researchers believe they have found a MicroRNA biomarker signature in the pleural effusion of patients, which is a buildup of fluid surrounding the lungs. This would make it much easier to diagnose mesothelioma, especially since pleural effusion occurs in 90 percent of mesothelioma patients. Doctors already drain the excess fluid, so all they would have to do is look at the fluid under a microscope and look for the microRNA.
To try to find the microRNAs, fluid samples from 26 pleural mesothelioma sufferers and sufferers of 21 other diseases were taken. An array was used to analyze the over 700 microRNAs found in the fluid samples. There were multiple microRNAs found in a large portion of the pleural mesothelioma fluid samples. These included miR-143, miR-210, and miR-200c. It was found that very few non mesothelioma samples were found with these microRNA signatures. With these three signatures, it can be a lot easier to diagnose mesothelioma. Fluid is already taken from the patients’ chests, so testing for these signatures could help researchers make a speedy diagnosis.
Mesothelioma does not have a cure, but when diagnosed early, patients’ lives can be extended. The problem is that mesothelioma shares symptoms with other more common illnesses, so it can be difficult to diagnose. If there is a new, less invasive way to diagnose patients, doctors would be able to diagnose quickly and efficiently. This would make it easier on patients and could ensure they were treated as soon as possible.
Birnie, KA, “MicroRNA Signatures in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Effusions.” Disease Markers (July 31, 2019). [Link]