Researchers have found through genetic testing that some people are more disposed to mesothelioma than others.
While the concentration and duration of asbestos exposure remains the main cause of mesothelioma, a genetic mutation in the BAP1 gene can determine the effectiveness of chemotherapy, the length of treatment and whether your relatives are predisposed to mesothelioma themselves.
The research conducted by Dr. Michele Carbone of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center discovered that nearly 70 percent of mesothelioma patients carry the mutated BAP1 gene, while only 20 percent of cancer victims overall have the mutated gene. Carbone also discovered that a person can be born with the mutation or it can develop as cells become malignant.
The BAP1 gene mutation means a person is more likely to contract mesothelioma and is more resistant to chemotherapy. This is not a bad thing, however, since finding the mutated BAP1 gene allows for earlier treatment, which increases the odds of survival, and also allows for the recommendation of a stronger chemotherapy regimen, which also increases the odds of survival.
Testing for the mutated BAP1 gene could also identify family members predisposed to mesothelioma. The genetic mutation is currently the only known biological marker of mesothelioma susceptibility.
The benefits of genetic testing
Genetic testing involves a drop of blood and results take about two weeks. Carbone said all patients with mesothelioma should undergo the minimally invasive genetic testing to help determine a better course of treatment. Testing on patients with asbestosis can help doctors minimize the risk of mesothelioma.
A second study found two genes – CDKN2A and NF2 – that contributed to shorter survival from mesothelioma. The genes seemed to make mesothelioma more aggressive and less responsive to some types of surgery.
Another study has found that the blood of mesothelioma patients has a hyperacetylated isoform of HMGB1. This development could provide an early detection system for the cancer.