Biomarkers Used To Diagnose And Treat Cancers Earlier

According to a recent MSNBC article, U.S. researchers have identified “specific changes in the blood of patients” that might help in the early diagnosis of mesothelioma and pancreatic cancer, improving patients’ chances of survival. Mesothelioma patients stand to benefit greatly from this medical breakthrough because the symptoms of this disease often remain difficult to identify, beginning slowly and mimicking other common illnesses. The slow onset of mesothelioma cancer along with the lack of information surrounding it leads to its delayed diagnosis and makes many treatment options highly ineffective. The MSNBC article goes on to explain the “clinical research director of Somalogic Inc,” Rachel Ostroff, said these cancers are currently “‘detected at an advanced stage, where the possibility of cure is minimal.’” MSNBC further explains that the cancer caused by asbestos exposure, mesothelioma, “kills an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people per year worldwide.” The news source goes on to report that in August, “NEC Corp of Japan invested $5 million as part of a strategic partnership with Colorado-based Somalogic to develop the technology, which aims to detect disease by examining proteins in a drop of blood.” According to the MSNBC story, “Somalogic's tests rely on aptamers -- bits of genetic material that stick to proteins” to help differentiate between patients that have one of these two cancers and those who do not. The news source goes on to explain that “company researchers tested blood samples of patients with both cancers and those in control groups who had conditions that gave them symptoms similar to these cancers, such as pancreatitis or lung fibrosis.” MSNBC reports that after taking those samples, “The team used computer modeling to look for significant biological differences, or biomarkers, that distinguished blood samples of cancer patients from those without cancer.” MSNBC reports that during the study, “the team found biological markers that were highly accurate in detecting each type of cancer.” According to Ostroff, the markers “were also highly specific, meaning they were able to correctly rule out people who did not have those cancers,” the article further explains. The news source explains that Ostroff and her team now must confirm biomarkers in other studies “to ensure the results were accurate and can be reliably reproduced in diagnostic tests.” According to the news site, Ostroff explains that although these biomarkers are easily discovered, “‘It is very hard to validate them.’” MSNBC goes on to explain that Ostroff and her team “will look at several factors that could lead to false positive results, such as how long a sample has been sitting on a shelf before it was tested,” to ensure they are indeed looking at disease biomarkers. This recent detection breakthrough represents a great step to curing mesothelioma disease by allowing doctors a full range of treatment options that are only present in the early stages of this cancer. When detected in a later stage, as mesothelioma commonly is, doctors generally use palliative procedures meant to improve patient comfort and prolong their life. However, if this breakthrough continues to yield the positive results it has so far shown, doctors will soon be able to take steps to cure patients diagnosed with this cancer. References: Steenhuysen, Julie. (September, 28 2010) “Tests may detect mesothelioma, pancreatic cancer.” Retrieved December 14, 2010 from MSNBC. Previous: A Look at Asbestos Laws and Regulations Next: New Standard for Testing Asbestos Levels in Soil