Can Fibulin-3 Identify Mesothelioma Earlier than Traditional Methods?

July 28, 2018
Can Fibulin-3 Identify Mesothelioma Earlier than Traditional Methods?

Mesothelioma is a notoriously difficult disease to diagnose. But, a new study in the medical journal, Oncotarget, could change the way we look for mesothelioma. The study, which was published in 2017, indicated that high levels of the fibulin-3 protein in the bloodstream could help doctors diagnose malignant pleural mesothelioma (the most common type of the disease). Right now, the most common way to check for mesothelioma is extremely invasive and often unreliable.

Finding Mesothelioma with Fibulin-3

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is, again, the most common form the disease, developing in the lung lining (or pleura). Currently, the best method for identifying the disease is with an invasive pleural biopsy. The procedure removes part of the pleura to test it for any incidence of pleural mesothelioma. As you can imagine, this procedure can be nerve-wracking for the patient. It’s also not as reliable as most people would hope.

Researchers, however, have some hope in fibulin-3 as a reliable indicator of the disease. Fibulin-3 is a protein found in the blood or fluid around the lungs and inside the chest wall. Researchers examined eight previous studies about the protein to see if any broad conclusions could be made. All of the eight studies had previously looked at fibulin-3 levels in blood and in the fluid buildup (pleural effusion) in and around the lining of the lungs.

In the blood samples, fibulin-3 accurately identified mesothelioma in 87 out of 100 cases. With the pleural effusion samples, the protein was accurate in 73 out of 100 patients. While this doesn’t mean that fibulin-3 is surefire indicator of mesothelioma, it does provide some hope for future sufferers of the disease.

The Importance of Early Diagnoses

The invasive pleural biopsies that patients are subjected to can prove to be completely unreliable. Even with a pleural biopsy, active mesothelioma may not present itself. Still, the most important factor for beating mesothelioma is to find it early. If fibulin-3 turns out to be a reliable “biomarker” that can identify malignant pleural mesothelioma, then it could drastically reduce the amount of deaths associated with the disease.

As it stands, most people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the later stages of the disease (usually stage 3 or 4). At that point, most treatment options are ineffective against the disease’s proliferation. In fact, if standard treatment options like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery don’t work, most doctors will not recommend another form of treatment.

Mesothelioma is so hard to identify because it isn’t a traditional type of cancer. Lung cancer, for instance, is much easier to identify because a cancerous tumor will clearly be attached to the structure. Mesothelioma, on the other hand, occurs in the lining of various organs (usually the lungs). It essentially encases the affected organ making the organ appear slightly larger but not necessarily in any danger.

Most patients diagnosed with late-stage mesothelioma are given a prognosis of around a year, and some don’t even make it that long. Mesothelioma is a tragic disease with few treatment options, but that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. With fibulin-3, catching mesothelioma early could be a possibility.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call or email us for a free consultation.