British devise medical test that may aid in diagnosing
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NEWS UPDATE: New Mesothelioma Test
August 25, 2009 – A new test that measures the level of certain proteins in
patients suspected of having mesothelioma
may help improve physicians' ability to diagnose the disease, according to a
study by the Oxford Centre for Respiratory Medicine at Oxford University.
The test examines the fluid in the pleural cavity, specifically noting the
presence of mesothelin, a
glycoprotein present in large amounts in most patients with mesothelioma.
Samples were gathered from 209 patients in a respiratory clinic, and
significant levels of mesothelin were present in every collected sample. For
diagnosing mesothelioma, pleural-fluid mesothelin outperformed cytology.
Investigators concluded in the Sept. 1 issue of the American Journal of
Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine that compared with cytology (a
cellular examination), testing mesothelin levels in a patient's pleural-fluid
had better sensitivity. Mesothelioma affects the delicate membrane on the
surface of the lungs, known as the pleura.
"Pleural effusion ... can be
maddeningly difficult to diagnose, as a wide variety of malignant and benign
causes exist," lead author Helen E. Davies, MD, of Oxford University, noted in a
statement. "One of the causes, malignant pleural mesothelioma, is a
relatively rare cancer, but its incidence is rapidly increasing on a global
Obtaining a prompt mesothelioma diagnosis may result in a more positive
response to treatment options used to battle the cancer.
Mesothelioma, the deadliest form of asbestos-related cancer, is most
frequently attributed to occupational asbestos exposure.
Government sources estimate that in the next decade more than 35,000 people
nationwide will be diagnosed with mesothelioma. The cancer is most often the
result of asbestos exposure on
jobs – and usually contracted through employers’ preference for profits over
the health and safety of their workers.
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