One of the most devastating characteristics about asbestos-related diseases is that they are often caught too late to treat effectively. In most cases, people who have developed the deadly disease don’t know they have it until 10 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos, which is the primary cause of mesothelioma. Once detected, tragically, there is little that doctors can do.
However, a new study has reported some promising results in identifying mesothelioma earlier. In fact, the reports suggest that the disease can be detected before a person even has symptoms, which can make treatment more timely and effective. The research was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
According to the report, the center of this finding is a protein called fibulin-3. Researchers wanted to study the level of this protein people’s blood and the fluid around their lungs. They conducted their research by testing patients with mesothelioma, patients with fluid around their lungs but without mesothelioma, patients who had been exposed to asbestos but did not have mesothelioma, and patients without any asbestos exposure whatsoever.
The results of the blood test suggest that levels of fibulin-3 were much higher in patients with pleural mesothelioma. Similarly, the levels of fibulin-3 in the lung fluid tests were much higher in those who had mesothelioma. The increased presence of the protein may be a crucial indicator that a person indeed has mesothelioma. With this information, doctors may be able to diagnose mesothelioma in a much earlier stage of the disease, which can make treatments more effective.
While further testing is needed in order to confirm the link between increased fibulin-3 and mesothelioma, the research is certainly giving many people hope. While it may be too late to help current victims of mesothelioma and their families, this research is a step forward in helping future generations of people who have been exposed to asbestos and have to pay the ultimate price.
Source: Surviving Mesothelioma, “New Biomarker May Detect Mesothelioma Earlier,” Oct. 14, 2012