Gene Mapping Study Could Lead To Improved Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Mesothelioma, a form of cancer that typically affects the lungs, can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages. Initial symptoms often present as flu-like symptoms, so the only way to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis is through a potentially invasive biopsy. However, a recent study involving gene mapping could lead to a less invasive and more effective diagnosis method for early stages of mesothelioma.
Current Mesothelioma Diagnosis Process
The first step to obtaining a diagnosis is noticing symptoms that align with mesothelioma. However, many of the early symptoms of mesothelioma are the same as those likely to be caused by other illnesses, and they are often ignored. Typically, people with mesothelioma present with symptoms for several months before they are accurately diagnosed.
While symptoms may vary depending on which form of mesothelioma is present, general symptoms include fever, excessive sweating, fatigue, weight loss, blood clots, and loss of appetite. In mesothelioma that affects the chest, symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath, cough, trouble swallowing, hoarseness, and swelling of the face and arms are common.
If these symptoms persist and other ailments are ruled out, your doctor will conduct a physical exam to check for any lumps or other unusual signs. In addition, imaging scans such as a chest X-ray and computerized tomography (CT) scan may be ordered to look for any internal abnormalities. Depending on the results from the scans and examination, additional blood work may be done to check for any warning signs of mesothelioma.
The only way to definitively confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis is through a biopsy. There are three different types of biopsies that may be used to confirm or deny a mesothelioma diagnosis:
- Surgical Biopsy: The most invasive form of biopsy that involves removing a large sample of the mesothelioma tumor or the whole tumor.
- Endoscopic Biopsy: Utilizes a thin tube with a tiny camera on the end to examine the affected tissue. A sample is taken for testing.
- Fluid or Needle Biopsy: Uses a thin needle to remove a sample of the tumor or fluid from the chest cavity, abdominal cavity, or heart sac. This is the least invasive form of biopsy.
In most instances, a fluid biopsy is insufficient for a mesothelioma diagnosis, so a more invasive procedure must be done.
Improving Efficacy of Fluid Biopsies in Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Earlier this year, a team of Japanese researchers published a study that aimed to improve the efficacy of the less invasive fluid biopsy procedure for pleural mesothelioma. The team looked at using fluid tissue samples to reliably diagnose mesothelioma and accurately distinguish it from lung conditions that present with similar symptoms.
During the study, researchers utilized samples of pleural effusion, which is excess fluid buildup between the lining of the lungs and chest cavity. Pleural effusion is a common symptom of mesothelioma and other lung conditions. To test the efficacy of these fluid biopsies, fluid samples came from patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma and reactive mesothelial hyperplasia (RMH), which is a benign condition that can be difficult to distinguish from mesothelioma.
From 2010 to 2019, researchers collected fluid samples from 54 mesothelioma patients and 18 RMH patients. The mesothelioma sample group included 46 men and eight women and had an average patient age of 71.5 years. The RMH sample group included 10 men and eight women and had an average patient age of 71.1 years.
For quality control, the researchers ensured that any sample collected had at least 100 mesothelial cells per sample. Mesothelial cells are where cancer develops in mesothelioma patients. By doing so, the researchers ensured that they had a large enough sample size to accurately report on. These larger sample sizes increased the likelihood that researchers would be able to identify and diagnose cancerous cells during the study.
FISH Tests Offer Promising Results for Future Mesothelioma Diagnosis
To test the collected fluid samples, the research team utilized a diagnostic method known as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) test. FISH tests identify the presence or absence of certain genes or groups of genes. They are commonly used in developing a cancer prognosis, as they help to reveal how cells will react to certain treatments. In addition, FISH tests are utilized for gene research, diagnosis of other diseases, and to reduce the chance of birth defects during vitro fertilization.
The research team ran several FISH tests looking at a series of pieces of DNA that can signal cancer development or disease. One FISH test identified mesothelioma in 51.9% of mesothelioma cases. The same test identified RMH in 100% of RMH cases. A combination of additional FISH tests identified 98.1% of mesothelioma cases correctly.
While these results are promising, more research is needed before fluid biopsies become a widely adopted diagnostic test for mesothelioma. 25.9% of mesothelioma cases in the study required additional testing for an accurate diagnosis due to issues with the fluid tissue samples.
Consult With An Attorney About Your Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Presenting symptoms of mesothelioma can be just the beginning to a long road to an accurate diagnosis. While new research shows a promising future in the evolution of diagnostic procedures, patients today may still face uncertainty when it comes to a diagnosis.
Even more frustrating, many patients develop mesothelioma as a result from asbestos exposure. If you or someone you love is struggling with a mesothelioma diagnosis, the team at Peter Angelos Law is here to help. We have decades of experience helping mesothelioma patients get the compensation they deserve. Fill out the form below to consult with our team today.