New Diagnostic Test Will Aid Mesothelioma Patients

Boston, MA—An exciting breakthrough in the treatment of pleural mesothelioma has occurred at Boston’s famed Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Researchers there have developed a gene ratio test which can help identify candidates for not only surgical procedures but also trimodality therapy.

Trimodality therapy—a multi-modal approach which combines surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in a bid to eliminate the cancerous cells—has long been recognized as a more successful mode of treatment than any single approach. However, trimodality is an aggressive approach which also carries with it high medical costs and sometimes debilitating side effects, and it’s only beneficial to approximately half of all patients diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma.

The researchers have worked to establish a gene ratio test, which will assist oncologists in better determining who will be most genetically likely to benefit from this aggressive approach to cancer treatment. The stakes are high, because although currently the median survival rate of patients who have the trimodality therapy is only one to two years, an approximate 20 percent of patients may remain free of the cancer for between three to 15 years.

Recommending that the new test become part of the standard procedure during diagnostics and staging of mesothelioma, the researcher cite several of its advantages: it is easy to use, does not depend on highly specific instrumentation, and can be performed in any laboratory. Additionally, it can utilize tissue samples that are obtained during the standard biopsy procedures that are used to diagnose mesothelioma, so no further invasive procedures are necessary in order to perform the gene ratio analysis.

The new gene ratio analysis looks at the relative expression levels of four genes which are involved in the development of malignant mesothelioma. It has been shown in multiple studies to be effective at predicting the post-surgical potential of mesothelioma patients, specifically pleural mesothelioma patients.

Mesothelioma, an extremely rare cancer, is diagnosed only in about 3,000 people in the United States each year. Its only established cause is previous, usually repeated or prolonged, exposure to the toxic carcinogen asbestos – a material which was once used in almost all aspects of construction as an insulator.