In a recent study, a team of cancer specialists from Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, and Australia have found what they believe could be a new and helpful biomarker for malignant pleural mesothelioma. The study, “Circulating activin A is a novel prognostic biomarker in malignant pleural mesothelioma – A multi-institutional study,” is published in the European Journal of Cancer.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a rare, aggressive cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue surrounding the lungs known as the pleura. The disease is caused primarily by the inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers. Once these fibers are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lining around the lungs. The fibers accumulate in the body, and cause cellular and genetic damage that can ultimately lead to cancer.
MPM is a devastating disease that appears to have an increasing incidence worldwide. Both the diagnosis of MPM and the disease prognosis are often challenging tasks. Novel biomarkers (components in the blood) are urgently needed to facilitate an earlier and more accurate diagnosis as well as provide prognostic information for clinicians.
In the new study, researchers measured circulating activin A from plasma samples of 129 MPM patients at the time of diagnosis or before surgical resection and plasma samples from 45 healthy people and 16 patients with non-malignant pleural diseases.
The researchers found that plasma activin A level was significantly elevated in MPM patients when compared to healthy controls, and that the tumor volume showed a positive correlation with increased circulating activin A levels. MPM patients with below-median activin A levels had a significantly longer overall survival when compared to those with high activin A levels.
And, circulating activin A levels were exclusively prognostic in epithelioid MPM.
“Our findings suggest that the measurement of circulating activin A may support the histological classification of malignant pleural mesothelioma and at the same time help to identify epithelioid malignant pleural mesothelioma patients with poor prognosis,” wrote Mir Alireza Hoda, an Austrian surgeon and molecular biologist, according to a recent news release.
“Biomarkers are crucial not only for diagnosis and prognosis in mesothelioma but also for effective treatment planning for optimal outcomes,” said Alex Strauss, managing editor of Surviving Mesothelioma. “The discovery of a new and more effective mesothelioma biomarker could have significant implications for mesothelioma patients and their families.”