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Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose and treat, with many patients not receiving a diagnosis until the later stages of the disease. Emerging research continues to explore new ways to accurately diagnose and treat the asbestos-related disease as early as possible.

A recent study conducted at the University of Nantes in France identified a protein, known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), as a potential identifying factor in malignant pleural mesothelioma diagnosis and as a possible treatment. The expression of this protein can be identified without invasive procedures, and experts presume targeted therapy can be utilized as a treatment option when BDNF is present in mesothelioma patients.

Using BDNF Protein to Diagnose Mesothelioma

The BDNF protein occurs naturally in the brain and spinal cord, and aids in the survival, maturation, and overall growth of nerve cells. When there is an overexpression in cell lines, it can be an indication of cancer in the body. Such proteins are referred to as biomarkers, or measurable substances in the blood that may indicate the presence of cancer and other conditions, and can be identified through minimally invasive blood tests. Biomarker testing and genetic testing work by recognizing structural changes in the DNA, potentially before cancer is in its advanced stages. Based on previous studies, researchers referenced data that concluded an overexpression of the BDNF protein in cells may indicate malignant pleural mesothelioma, particularly in comparison to other lung cancers.

Researchers found that the expression of BDNF was highest in cases of malignant pleural mesothelioma. The expression in mesothelioma cases surpassed levels of expression in other lung conditions, like lung squamous carcinoma and lung adenocarcinoma. This expression also showed to be significantly higher in mesothelioma patients who were experiencing pleural effusion as a symptom, compared to other abnormal tissue growth. However, the levels in the mesothelioma subgroups as a whole were similar, suggesting that BDNF expression levels can indicate the presence of mesothelioma.

They also linked the protein expression to mesothelioma prognosis, specifically discovering that individuals with higher BDNF had lower survival. For example, the average survival for individuals with high BDNF was 15.9 months, while individuals with lower BDNF expression survived 21.1 months.

Utilizing a biomarker such as BDNF to diagnose mesothelioma can aid in early diagnosis, give patients a more accurate prognosis, and can even help to predict a patient’s response to different treatment options.

How BDNF Impacts Treatment for Pleural Mesothelioma

In addition to BDNF working as a possible biomarker for diagnosing mesothelioma, researchers also suggested its potential for treatment. The study suggests that the protein can help monitor the efficacy of chemotherapyradiation, or targeted therapy throughout a patient’s treatment journey, as well as be a target for personalized medicine.

Utilizing the BDNF protein as a targeted therapy can be revolutionary for emerging mesothelioma treatment. Researchers explored angiogenesis in order to discover a potential treatment option for mesothelioma patients using the BDNF protein. Angiogenesis refers to the formation of new blood vessels, which promotes cancer cell growth. The process responds to chemical signals in the body, one of them being the BDNF protein signaling cell growth.

The study notes that when working to treat patients with pleural effusion with an antibody for BDNF, meant to halt the signal for cell growth, it was not effective and angiogenesis continued. Researchers explained this result signaled that other proteins or expressions may have a more dominant impact on signaling cell growth and allowing it to overcome the treatment. Previous research findings indicate that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression can be induced by BDNF, ultimately helping to promote angiogenesis and cancer cell growth. With these proteins working simultaneously to grow cancer cells, researchers are searching for a solution to slow this growth and prevent metastasis.

Based on their findings, they believe that creating a treatment to block BDNF signals at the same time as implementing other targeted therapies can halt angiogenesis and help slow cancer growth and control tumors. Research is still in its early phases, but it could become a powerful tool in improving patient prognosis for individuals who have high BDNF expression.

BDNF as a new biomarker for mesothelioma will help open new opportunities in research. With further study, researchers hope it can continue to show success in early diagnosis, as well as offer hope as a therapeutic target to better control the rapid growth and spread that is characteristic of mesothelioma.


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