Mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure, is notoriously difficult to diagnose. This presents a challenge for mesothelioma patients, for whom late-stage diagnosis often results in low survival rates. New diagnostic tools that can detect the disease earlier may hold the key to improving patient outcomes. A recent study published in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics reveals how DNA sequencing may be the solution doctors need.
There are multiple reasons why diagnosing mesothelioma presents such a challenge. There is a long latency period between exposure to asbestos and the appearance of mesothelioma; asbestos fibers that are inhaled or ingested lodge themselves in the chest cavity and damage the surrounding tissue for decades, leading to tumor development. Symptoms of mesothelioma, such as persistent cough, chest pain, and difficulty breathing, may not appear in early stages of disease progression, and when they do, they mimic other respiratory conditions.
Diagnosing mesothelioma currently involves a number of methods, including radiological tests, biopsies, and blood tests. Ruling out respiratory diseases is the first step to getting a clear diagnosis; distinguishing mesothelioma from other neoplasms such as fibrous tumors or sarcomas is the second. These processes take time, and the disease may progress unchecked during this time if not treated effectively. Early-stage treatments for mesothelioma are similar as those for other cancers and include chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Surgically removing mesothelioma tumors can be the most effective way to extend life expectancy, but once the disease has progressed and spread to other parts of the body, this is no longer an option. Chemotherapy and radiation can help to slow tumor growth and manage symptoms, but most patients have a short life expectancy.
Methylation Profile of DNA Unique to Mesothelioma
The study focused on the process of methylation, or the bonding of methane-based molecules to a strand of DNA. In cancer patients, this process is interrupted, preventing cells from properly regulating gene expression and compromising their ability to recognize cancer cells. Researchers found that the methylation profile expressed by the DNA of a mesothelioma patient had a unique signature. They compared the methylation profile from tissue samples of diagnosed mesothelioma patients against a dozen conditions with similar symptoms, including multiple types of sarcoma. After testing hundreds of tissue samples using multiple methodologies, they were able to distinguish the mesothelioma tissue every time using methylation profiling.
The study was conducted by collaborating researchers from the University of University of Turin in Italy, University Hospital of Heidelberg in Germany, and the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands. Although the researchers had reservations about the success of methylation profiling in patients with low tumor cell counts, the consistency of the results are very promising for accurately diagnosing mesothelioma. Removing the guesswork from mesothelioma diagnosis can help patients get into treatment faster and improve their diagnosis, potentially saving lives.
Philadelphia Asbestos Lawyers at Shein Law Advocate for Patients with Asbestos-Related Diseases
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact the Philadelphia asbestos lawyers at Shein Law. Our knowledgeable, experienced lawyers will thoroughly review the facts of your case to determine who is responsible for your asbestos exposure and hold them accountable. We are committed to getting you the compensation you deserve so that you can focus on your treatment and recovery. Call us at 877-743-4652 or contact us online to discuss your case. With offices in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.