An early diagnosis is one of the first steps toward overcoming a potentially fatal disease. When it comes to malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), there are few reliable methods of detecting this illness, particularly while it is in its early stages. This makes medical research all the more important.
Recently, a team of scientists from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) conducted a study with help from the Estate of Robert Grifﬁths; the Jeffrey and Karen Peterson Family Foundation; and Paul and Michelle Zygielbaum, all of whom provided funds via The Kazan, McClain, Abrams, Fernandez, Lyons, Greenwood, Oberman, Satterley & Bosl Foundation, Inc, which gave additional support, as well. For the experiment, the researchers evaluated the utility of three different proteins as potential biomarkers of malignant mesothelioma.
A pressing need for better detection
The median survival time following diagnosis of mesothelioma is 16 months, according to the National Cancer Institute. This disease is usually a consequence of identifiable asbestos exposure. However, because the latency period between contact with the material and the development of symptoms can take upward of 20 years, the incidences of asbestos-related illnesses will continue to rise for at least the next decade as the population of senior citizens increases, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Doctors are usually able to treat diseases effectively if they identify them early. This has proved to be a rather difficult goal for MPM. According to the American Cancer Society, most patients do not even know they are sick until they develop symptoms. Some physicians try to diagnose these individuals with the help of chest X-rays or computed tomography. However, it is not clear whether these tools are useful.
Signs of disease in the cells
One active area of research into the diagnosis of MPM is biomarkers, which are substances in the body that indicate the presence of disease. Based on previous studies, scientists from UCSF decided to investigate whether the proteins dishevelled-3 (Dvl3), excitatory amino acid transporter 1 (EAAT1) and glutamine synthetase (GS) could help identify MPM.
In their experiment, the researchers collected tissue samples from 39 MPM patients. They also obtained cell samples from both MPM and healthy mesothelial tissue. Among the various laboratory tests that they performed was cell staining to reveal the biomarkers.
“According to the results in this study, our findings indicate that MPM cells express more EAAT1 than normal cells. Moreover, the survival time of MPM patients was inversely correlated with the degree of EAAT1 staining: the stronger the staining, the shorter the survival time,” the researchers wrote in the Journal of Clinical Pathology.
Other results showed that both Dvl3 and GS staining were associated with EAAT1 staining, but only Dvl3 was linked to survival time. Further studies are needed to verify these findings.