Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the delicate membranes lining the pleural, peritoneal and pericardial cavities of the human body. Between 2,000 and 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. In 70 to 80 percent of those cases the patient presents with a history of occupational exposure to asbestos. The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma in which asbestos fibers, when unsuspectingly inhaled, stimulate pleural cells to begin dividing abnormally.
Mesothelioma typically has a prolonged latency period: The interval between a documented asbestos exposure and the diagnosis of mesothelioma is usually a long period of time (20-50 years after exposure) which means that, in most cases, the disease has progressed to its final stages before it is caught. This limits treatment options severely and is the main reason why the disease’s prognosis is so limited.
However, dramatic progress is being made in the early detection of mesothelioma thanks to the miRview Meso test, a diagnostic tool that allows physicians to differentiate malignant mesothelioma from other forms of metastatic carcinomas affecting the membranes around the lungs (pleura). The miRview Meso test was developed by the biomedical company Rosetta Genomics, and is widely familiar to oncologists working with mesothelioma patients.
First, a biopsy is obtained from the affected tumor site. The biopsy can be obtained either in a physician’s office or in a hospital setting. Then those tissues are sent out to be examined under sophisticated laboratory conditions for the presence of three distinctive microRNA markers. When these markers are found, they are measured. MicroRNAs are short, ribonucleic acid molecules found in all cells with membranes and a distinct nucleus. They play a critical role in the regulation of genes. It’s been estimated that the human genome encodes over 1000 miRNAs, and that these are responsible for the expression of nearly 60 percent of all human genes.
The miRview Meso test is an extremely reliable test for the diagnosis of mesothelioma, able to both confirm the presence of mesothelioma (sensitivity) and to rule out other diseases it might be mistaken for (specificity). Before this one-step diagnostic procedure was developed, the diagnosis of mesothelioma was a laborious process, involving a variety of imaging scans that could easily be misinterpreted. The widespread adoption of the miRview Meso test means that a mesothelioma diagnosis can be made more quickly and with a much higher degree of certainty so that treatment can commence as soon as possible.