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Scientists may have found new test for pleural mesothelioma

One of the most difficult aspects of treating patients with mesothelioma and other forms of lung cancer that doctors face is obtaining an accurate picture of the severity of the disease. Traditionally, doctors will look at patients' lymph nodes to determine what stage a cancer is in. Once doctors determine what stage a cancer is in, they will use this information to development a treatment plan.

In what might be good news for people suffering from pleural mesothelioma, one of the most common types of mesothelioma, researchers recently released a study that could lead to doctors being better able to treat patients with pleural mesothelioma.

Although physicians have been looking at the presence of cancer cells in the lymph nodes to determine what stage of cancer a patient is in for years, researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine in Pennsylvania have found a new use for a previously overlooked group of lymph nodes.  These lymph nodes are called the posterior intercostal lymph nodes and are located in the rib cage, close to the spine.

As part of the study, researcher found that more than half of the pleural mesothelioma patients they studied had metastatic cancer cells in the posterior intercostal lymph nodes. In addition, these were the only lymph nodes that had metastatic cells in some of the patients.

In looking back at patient outcomes, researchers found that patients who did not have cancer cells in the posterior intercostal lymph nodes survived cancer longer than the patients who did have cancer cells in the posterior intercostal lymph nodes.

Researchers believe that these lymph nodes should now be evaluated to give doctors a clearer picture of pleural mesothelioma.

Source: Penn Medicine, "Overlooked lymph nodes in rib cage have prognostic power for mesothelioma patients," Oct. 28, 2013

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