The medical conditions associated with asbestos exposure have affected millions of people around the world. Thankfully countries such as the United States have been reporting a decline in the use of asbestos, and nations like the United Kingdom have banned it entirely.
It is often known as the “silent killer” because it was often mixed in with other materials, such as concrete, and can be found in all sorts of things ranging from electrical cable insulation to vinyl floor tiles.
The need for early Detection of Mesothelioma
One of the big problems surrounding the early detection of the symptoms of asbestos-related conditions such as mesothelioma is the fact that it can be several decades before any symptoms show up – by which time the cancer is typically at an advanced stage.The medical fraternity have been investigating different techniques for early detection of mesothelioma, and one of the thoroughly-tested ways of doing so is by looking for high levels of soluble mesothelin-related protein.
Although this is the most-studied biomarker, it isn’t particularly reliable as it has low sensitivity; in other words, it isn’t a definitive way of detecting this form of cancer in patients.
Fibulin-3: an Alternative Biomarker for Mesothelioma Detection?
Back in 2012, a study that was supported by the National Cancer Institute’s Early Detection Research Network identified another protein, called fibulin-3, which appears to have better results than soluble mesothelin-related protein.
Led by Dr. Harvey Pass and his colleagues at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, the team discovered that this particular protein is important in extracellular cell matrix signaling and cell signaling. In layman’s terms, this basically means that the fibulin-3 protein is important because of the way it interacts with cancerous cells, and it also means that this can potentially be used to detect mesothelioma sooner rather than later.
Who was Studied?
When the tests were conducted, the team took plasma and pleural effusion samples from 142 patients, as well as samples from people exposed to asbestos but didn’t have mesothelioma. They also took samples from a number of other individuals for comparison.
The results concluded that levels of the fibulin-3 protein were significantly higher in those diagnosed with mesothelioma than those who have been exposed to asbestos but do not have the cancerous cells in their bodies.It was also determined that the tests were around 96.7% accurate (i.e. the sensitivity was at that level).
Other ways Fibulin-3 can be useful for
As well as being used for the early detection and diagnosis of mesothelioma, the protein can also be used as a means of monitoring how well a patient is responding to treatment.
With such promising results such as the ones in the tests conducted in 2012 by the EDRN, it is hoped that further tests involving a larger number of patients can be conducted so that more extensive research is done into why this protein interacts with the cancerous cells like it does, and how it can be used with treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.