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Patients who have high levels of a protein known as fibulin-3 in their blood or in fluid that collects between the chest wall and lungs could make it easier for doctors to diagnose malignant pleural mesothelioma. This could reduce the need for more invasive procedures that are often plagued with errors.
In order to diagnose malignant pleural mesothelioma, doctors have to perform a very invasive procedure known as a pleural biopsy. Not only is this a very stressful procedure for the patient, it is often not a very reliable method of diagnosing the disease. As a result, researchers have been looking for another, less invasive way to find out if someone has mesothelioma.
Fibulin-3 may provide the answer. According to a recent study published in the medical journal Oncotarget, the protein is responsible for regulating the way that cells proliferate and move through the body. There have been previous studies that analyzed whether the protein could be of diagnostic value, but results have been inconsistent.
In order to determine if fibulin-3 could be a reliable “biomarker,” or indicator that a patient may have malignant pleural mesothelioma, researchers looked at eight previous studies. These studies involved the use of blood samples containing the protein as well as pleural effusion (the liquid that accumulates between the lung and chest wall) samples.
These studies produced varying results, but the researchers found that blood samples with fibulin-3 had correctly identified the disease in 87 of 100 patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Pleural effusion samples proved to be not as effective, but were still able to identify the disease in 73 of 100 patients.
The earlier that malignant pleural mesothelioma is diagnosed, the better a patient’s chances for survival. Unfortunately, the disease exhibits symptoms very similar to other lung ailments, making it extremely difficult for doctors to be able to identify it. If fibulin-3 can be proven to be an effective biomarker, it could potentially lead to increased survival rates.