New Mesothelioma Biomarker Shows Promise

Illustration of mesothelioma research

According to a recent study, a new blood-derived biomarker called fibroblast growth factor 18 (FGF18) has shown promise in a recent clinical trial for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Historically, survival rates for mesothelioma are very low, and the diagnosis is fatal for most people; however, earlier detection methods have been shown to significantly improve survival rates and lengths.

Biomarkers are special substances in the bloodstream that may signal the presence of mesothelioma. Blood tests called “assays” can be used by doctors to detect these biomarkers and indicate the need for additional diagnostic tests.

Until now, the only biomarkers used for mesothelioma included MesoMark, High Mobility Group Box Protein 1 (HMGB1), N-ERC/Mesothelin, Osteopontin, and Fibulin-3. Results for the new FGF18 biomarker were presented earlier this month in Vienna at the 17th World Conference on Lung Cancer, a multidisciplinary meeting convened by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer focused on lung and lung-related malignancies, such as mesothelioma.

While biomarkers can detect the possibility of mesothelioma, they are usually insufficient to provide a full diagnosis on their own. A biopsy to obtain a sample of cancerous tissue is almost always required. The sample is then examined under a microscope by a histologist who can determine whether the tumor is mesothelioma, a different cancer, or another disease altogether.

Biomarker FGF18 has shown to help identify patients with a better prognosis, which allows individuals and doctors to make better informed therapeutic decisions. It will also add value because mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed, at least initially, partly due to the fact that many symptoms resemble the symptoms of other diseases.

Pleural mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed as pneumonia, emphysema, asthma, bronchial infections, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and Adenocarcinoma and lung cancers.

A previous study had shown FGF18 was present in MPM tissues and cells. This most recent study included 107 MPM patients, 49 healthy volunteers, and 8 patients with non-malignant pleural diseases. Plasma was collected from the 107 individuals, and all others served as controls.

The FGF18 was measured in each and results revealed significantly elevated FGF18 levels in MPM patients versus healthy ones. Patients who had FGF18 levels below the median had much longer survival rates versus patients with high FGF18 levels.

Many blood tests similar to FGF18 are still currently in clinical trials and are not yet approved for diagnosing mesothelioma – meaning they often are not covered by insurance. When combined with the overall expenses of mesothelioma during treatment, recovery, and follow-up care, the total costs often skyrocket over time.