A study by a team of Italian scientists suggests three key biomarkers used to diagnose malignant pleural mesothelioma might also be used to monitor treatment response of the disease.

Scientists from University of Pisa say the three biomarkers: SMRP (soluble mesothelin-related peptides), pOPM (plasma osteopontin) and vimentin, may offer an effective technique for doctors to follow mesothelioma tumor’s response to therapy.

Since mesothelioma is infamously difficult to treat, doctors often resort to different treatment combinations in order to generate a response.

What are mesothelioma biomarkers?

An abnormally high amount of substances found in the blood, lung fluid or serum of mesothelioma patients, but not usually found in healthy people, are the mesothelioma biomarkers. These biomarkers, if present in the blood of healthy people, are present at much lower levels.

Scientists say these can be important for making a mesothelioma diagnosis or for differentiating pleural mesothelioma from other lung diseases. At the same time, this will enable doctors to change course of treatment, thereby improve outcomes.

Mesomark, a test to detect SMRP, has become the primary method for managing mesothelioma in recent years. If SMRP is detected in the blood of a mesothelioma patient, it means that the mesothelial cells that line the membranes in the lungs have been damaged.

Plasma osteopontin is a form of protein that is responsible for causing inflammation, including the type of inflammation caused by asbestos exposure. Vimentin – another type of protein, is expressed in the mesenchymal cells which generates all of the body’s connective tissues.

How biomarkers are used for measuring mesothelioma treatment response

A total of 219 serum samples from 56 mesothelioma patients were used to test the merit of the three biomarkers as instruments for gauging mesothelioma treatment response.

The researchers calculated changes in biomarker levels over time and compared it to each patient’s clinical course. They found that the levels fluctuated with mesothelioma treatment response.

All three biomarkers showed remarkable differences between the disease progression, partial response, and stable disease, according to Dr. Alessandra Bonotti, a mesothelioma researcher.

The study showed these biomarkers to be particularly helpful in mesothelioma cases where the response to treatment was either partial or where the tumor had progressed. Dr Bonotti says the potential use of the three biomarkers in stable disease needs to be investigated further.