One of the largest problems facing those who have been exposed to asbestos is the long latency period between exposure and mesothelioma.
Someone who breathes in asbestos dust may not develop mesothelioma until decades later. In some cases, it can take 50 years before a correct diagnosis. Being able to spot asbestos exposure prior to developing mesothelioma could lead to better treatment – and maybe, to one day be able to stop the cancer from developing.
Researchers making strides in understanding mesothelioma
A recent study published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology is a promising development. Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health, researchers were able to identify a potential biomarker for the early detection of asbestos-related illness.
Scientists used two groups of cells from human lungs. They exposed one group to asbestos, and left the other to grow normally. They then collected “exosomes” released from the cells. Exosomes are small structures within a cell. According to the authors of the study, exosomes exposed to asbestos had significant changes that could lead to cancer growth. In addition, the cells could “communicate” with other cells through these exosomes, meaning the cancer could develop in a different area of the body.
The bottom line
Confused? It is a complicated topic, as is all cancer research. However, the study is important for two reasons:
- It could further our understanding of how mesothelioma develops
- By checking exosomes, scientists may one day be able to detect asbestos-caused cell changes before mesothelioma develops. This could improve treatment or stop cancer from developing at all.
There is still a long way to go in mesothelioma research. But research does continue, and strides are being made in our knowledge and treatment of mesothelioma.