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This biomarker could better stage and treat mesothelioma

Researchers may have found a better way to identify the severity of malignant pleural mesothelioma, or MPM.

A study published in the October edition of the Journal of Molecular Cancer suggests that using a particular type of "biomarker" could help doctors diagnose pleural mesothelioma earlier. Because a late diagnosis is often the reason for poor patient outcomes, this research has the potential to be a great tool for patients exposed to asbestos to get earlier treatment. 


What is pleural mesothelioma?

Pleural mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops in the protective lining of the lungs. That protective lining is called the pleura, and its job is vitally important to the function of the lungs. The pleural membrane provides the necessary lubrication for the lungs to expand, and attaches the lungs to the chest cavity -- allowing for greater expansion.

The cause of this specific form of lung cancer is exposure to asbestos.

Three current staging systems

A French study, published October 11, 2018 in the journal of Molecular Cancer reveals that To track the severity of a disease such as cancer, the medical community uses staging systems. Currently, physicians staging pleural mesothelioma use one or more of the following systems:

  • The Burchart Staging System: Based on the size and spread of the cancer cells.
  • The TNM (tumor, nodes, metastases) System: Based on the extent of the primary tumor, the health of the lymph nodes and indications of metastases (spreading).
  • The Brigham Staging System: The four stages indicate eligibility for surgical removal of the cancer cells.

While these three staging systems have been useful in diagnosing and selecting appropriate treatments, researchers may have found a better way to do so. The promising new research examines a specific biomarker: a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

What are biomarkers?

Every human has biomarkers in their body. Biomarkers, in simple terms, are unique living organisms that are present throughout your body. The collection and examination of these living organisms indicate the presence of disease and infection.

Information gleaned from biomarkers has been around for some time, however, biomarkers were not useful in the study of MPM until now.

Dr. Christophe Blanquart and his team have determined that the brain-derived biomarker, BDNF, is found in higher levels in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM).

BDNF is a growth factor, a substance required in the stimulation of growth in living cells. The logic follows that higher levels of BDNF would increase the growth of cancer cells.

These BDNF biomarkers could be very useful in diagnosing the extent of disease as well as its response to treatment.

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