Researchers have developed a new tool to diagnose malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) that combines differences seen in gene expression — which may also serve as disease biomarkers — with a computational algorithm, according to a study published in Oncotarget.
In the study, “Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma And Mesothelial Hyperplasia: A New Molecular Tool For The Differential Diagnosis,” researchers argue that this combination approach provides a useful tool to distinguish MPM from similar diseases, and can contribute to the proper diagnosis of patients.
MPM diagnosis mainly relies on the examination of lesions in the pleural tissue. However, criteria used to evaluate these lesions are not always clear, making analysis difficult. In fact, current techniques often fail in distinguishing between epithelioid MPM and reactive mesothelial hyperplasia (MH), a disease that shares several symptoms with MPM, including infections and pulmonary infarctions.
A lack of reliable biomarkers for MPM further complicates a diagnosis.
Researchers analyzed samples of epithelioid MPM from 25 patients (ages 43 to 85) and MH from 15 patients (ages 18 to 85) looking for changes in the expression levels of 117 genes previously associated with MPM.
They found that 35 genes with increased expression, and 31 with decreased expression in the samples. These differences were not age-specific.
Researchers then used an algorithm that could predict the development of MPM based on these genetic differences, which they tested on 14 samples of pleural mesothelial lesions. Results indicated that nine of these samples were of MPM and five were of MH, finding that were then confirmed by tissue analysis.
“In this study we identified a new molecular tool which combines molecular data and computational analysis to classify a mesothelial proliferation as benign [reactive hyperplasia] or as malignant [epithelioid MPM],” the researchers wrote. “The reported gene expression data are certainly useful from a biological point of view, suggesting and confirming new interesting biomarkers. Likewise, the deregulated genes might be evaluated as [tissue] markers, thus potentially allowing the development of [tissue] panels for mesothelioma.”
Although this is still a preliminary work, the team believes its tool will considerably aid physicians in distinguishing between epithelioid MPM and MH.