Cancer researchers at Oxford University in England say that they have formulated a more responsive test to detect the presence of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that evolves after long periods of exposure to asbestos fibers. Patients who develop this disease generally have a life expectancy of one year or less. This new test measures a protein connected to the cancer in the lining around the lungs.
Dr Paul Beckett, a member of the British Thoracic Society and one of the leading experts in the UK on lung disease, stated that an easy test that can rule out a diagnosis of mesothelioma without the need for more aggressive processes such as surgery would be well received within the community of thoracic oncologists and cancer caregivers. Dr. Beckett also said that the Oxford test would create a more efficient means of diagnosing patients with lung disease, both for those with mesothelioma and those with other lung conditions, as well as eliminating the need for more invasive and dangerous testing methods.
The Oxford clinical investigators concentrated their efforts on means of recognizing mesothelioma as a causal agent behind the increase of liquid in the chest cavity encompassing the lungs. The fluid buildup, also called pleural effusion, has many root causes, some of which are benign. However, pleural effusion is also often linked to other forms of lung cancer. Nine out of ten patients diagnosed with mesothelioma also exhibit pleural effusion.
In most cases, doctors test the content of the pleural fluid for cancer cells to determine if mesothelioma is present. The researchers at Oxford claim that their test is more accurate and less invasive. In the Oxford test, scientists examined fluid samples from more than two hundred patients from a clinic that specializes in treating respiratory and other lung diseases. They examined the samples for the presence of the mesothelin, a protein often found in the lung fluid of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. They found that the levels of mesothelin in mesothelioma patients was more than five times that of patients with other forms of lung cancer and ten times that of patients with benign lung disorders.
One of the Oxford researchers, Dr. Helen Davies, said that this investigation indicates a process that doctors can use to promptly discover cases of mesothelioma at the beginning of a patient's course of treatment. She also said that, since the average life expectancy is one year, any attempt to lessen the amount of surgical procedures and intrusive testing a patient would need is critical to lower the death rate and cut down on hospital time.
Receiving an immediate diagnosis of mesothelioma favors both patients and doctors alike. Like all forms of cancer, early detection is often the key to receiving accurate and adequate treatment. According to Dr. Davies, this new test will allow doctors to make faster decisions on how to reduce the effects of the disease’s symptoms and recommend an effective treatment routine. The early diagnosis will also help improve the patient’s quality of life by beginning the process of educating them on the disease and beginning the treatment process as early as possible.
The results from the study will be published in the September issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.