A novel protein test to detect early-stage, asbestos-related pulmonary cancer has been developed by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center. The test can accurately identify proteins secreted from cancerous tumors caused by asbestos exposure.
In a blinded test performed under the sponsorship of the National Cancer Institute's Early Detection Research Network Biomarker Discovery Lab, researchers detected 15 of 19 cases of stage 1 or stage 2 malignant pleural mesothelioma. The study shows the test is approximately 80 percent sensitive in identifying disease. In addition, the specificity of the test was 100 percent with no false positives.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive, asbestos-related pulmonary cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs. Each year, the disease causes an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 deaths worldwide. It can be fatal within 14 months following diagnosis because of the advanced stage that it is typically found.
The goal of a new diagnostic test is to find the cancer early enough to effectively treat it, according to Harvey I. Pass, MD, director of the Division of Thoracic Surgery and Thoracic Oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center and the NYU Cancer Institute.
"The only patients that seem to benefit from therapy in mesothelioma are those that are found in stage 1, and this is only 10 to 15 percent of patients," said lead researcher Dr. Pass. "Moreover, when found early, the magnitude of the operation necessary to reduce the burden of disease may be less, making the patient better able to cope if the disease recurs and the patient needs more aggressive therapy."
The research team used the "Multiplex SOMAmer Assay" by SomaLogic, Inc. to examine 170 blood samples from 90 patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and 80 participants who were previously exposed to asbestos. The technology uses SOMAmers, chemically modified single-stranded DNA molecules to bind specifically to target proteins , to identify and quantify biomarkers.
According to Dr. Pass, this test measures 19 protein biomarkers for malignant pleural mesothelioma and is able to find and quantify the small amount of proteins secreted by tumor cells. Ongoing studies are refining the test and validating the results in other patient blood samples.