Mesothelioma Diagnosis with a Breath Test
By Kathy Cooke. 20th July 2017
Belgium scientists have recently tested a breath analysis tool that could provide a breakthrough in efforts to diagnose mesothelioma cancer. The scientists from Ghent and Antwerp Universities say the technique looks promising and fits well within the aims of the National Cancer Moonshot research initiative established by President Obama.
The Challenge of Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a rare, lung-related cancer linked to asbestos exposure.
Although scientists have identified several compounds or biomarkers in blood or lung fluid that seem to be overproduced by mesothelioma tumours, these markers are not reliable enough to use as stand-alone diagnostic tools.
Instead, they are currently used in conjunction with other diagnostic tools such as imaging tests.
The protein Mesothelin is the most notable mesothelioma biomarker and forms the basis of the Mesomark blood test.
Other mesothelioma biomarkers include Osteopontin, fibulin-3 and SMRP. They are all used to help identify
mesothelioma cancer after symptoms first develop.
The Key is an Early Diagnosis of Mesothelioma
Doctors believe that one of the best ways to improve outcomes for mesothelioma patients is to identify mesothelioma
in its earliest stages, when therapeutic interventions are most likely to be effective. Although blood and serum biomarkers are limited in their ability to do this, the Belgian researchers believe that compounds in the exhaled breath of mesothelioma patients may be a viable alternative.
Breathomics is a technique for analyzing volatile organic compounds in the breath that are produced by
biochemical processes. Measuring the concentration of these compounds can provide key information about the
possible presence of lung cancer or pleural mesothelioma.
A researcher from Ghent University writes:
“ This method seems very promising in the early detection of diverse malignancies, because exhaled breath contains
valuable information on cell and tissue metabolism. ”
According to the article, research that focuses on breath-based biomarkers in pleural mesothelioma is still in its early stages, but the few studies that have been done show encouraging results. The breath analysis is simple, non-invasive, fast, and inexpensive. However, the research team says it may be more difficult with this method to tell one type of cancer from another.
Research to help distinguish VOCs from one type of cancer from VOCs produced by people with another type is ongoing.
The report states:
“ We believe a breathomics-based biomarkers approach should be further explored to improve the follow-up and management of asbestos exposed individuals. Rigorous studies on large patient cohorts and appropriate controls will determine the clinical validity and utility of breathomics in the diagnosis of mesothelioma. ”