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Researchers Possibly Found a MicroRNA Biomarker to Diagnose Mesothelioma

Published: August 5, 2022

Italian researchers have potentially found a new biomarker for mesothelioma. The biomarker is a microRNA signature. This would allow doctors to determine if someone’s cancer is mesothelioma or another type of cancer quickly. Mesothelioma is a notoriously hard to treat cancer and early diagnosis is one of the keys to patients living a longer, higher quality of life. If new ways to diagnose mesothelioma like this are found, it could be possible to diagnose mesothelioma early, which would allow patients to have the highest chance of success with treatment.

Mesothelioma is a cancer that is hard to diagnose because symptoms can be very similar to other lung conditions. A common symptom for mesothelioma includes pleural effusion, but lung cancer and other conditions can cause this as well. When this occurs, it can be hard to breathe, so doctors drain the fluid to make the patient more comfortable. The drained fluid can also be used to diagnose cancer, but doctors can have a hard time determining if the cells are mesothelioma or other cancer cells. If a microRNA signature could be found, doctors would have an easier time diagnosing mesothelioma.

MicroRNA is the part of RNA that regulates gene expression of cells, including cancer cells. If doctors find microRNA of mesothelioma cells, they can determine that a person has mesothelioma. MicroRNA would then be considered a biomarker, which is a molecule that shows signs of normal biological processes or diseases. It takes a lot of work to determine if microRNA is a biomarker for any disease including mesothelioma, so it will take time for this research to benefit mesothelioma patients.

To determine the microRNA differences, researchers compared microRNA of normal mesothelial cells and pleural mesothelioma cells. This information will help doctors diagnose mesothelioma in the future. The research team compared tumor and non-tumor samples and were even able to compare samples based on levels of asbestos exposure. If doctors can do a simple test for mesothelioma, they can detect the cancer earlier and then start treatment, which could improve survival and quality of life in patients.  This research is just the first step to helping doctors diagnose mesothelioma. Researchers hope that this process can be used in the future with a liquid biopsy to help doctors diagnose patients. This would prevent patients from having to undergo invasive procedures to be diagnosed with mesothelioma and other cancers.

Veronica Filetti et al., “Dysregulation of microRNAs and tRNA-derived ncRNAs in mesothelial and mesothelioma cell lines after asbestiform fiber exposure” Scientific Reports (June 2, 2022). [Link]
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