Earlier detection of mesothelioma and pancreatic cancer may be hastened thanks to new biomarkers identified by researchers at SomaLogic in Boulder, Colorado. Given the current difficulty in diagnosing and treating both these illnesses, the discovery is being met with much enthusiasm among the medical community.
For the mesothelioma portion of the study, the SomaLogic team (led by Rachel Ostroff, Ph.D.) investigated 357 serum samples collected from patients previously diagnosed with mesothelioma and lung cancer. As a control, the samples were compared to samples collected from individuals with benign lung disease, high-risk smokers and subjects who had previously been exposed to asbestos. All samples were subjected to aptamer-based proteomics array technology.
Upon comparison, the team successfully identified 19 mesothelioma biomarkers that were viewed as significant. Using these biomarkers, SomaLogic staff then incorporated a 13-plex Random Forest classifier to the blinded test set in an effort to “diagnose” mesothelioma among all patients. The researchers report a 100 percent specificity and 80 percent sensitivity in the ability to identify mesothelioma subjects from asbestos-exposed patients.
For the pancreatic cancer portion of the study, the team used the same technology and research model. Samples were drawn from 143 patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and compared to 116 control samples. Upon analysis, 25 percent of samples from both groups were held for blinded verification. Based on these blinded follow-ups, the team reports a specificity of 96.5 percent and sensitivity of 65 percent. In additional tests that took into account patient symptoms, specificity was improved to 75 percent (with sensitivity of 90 percent).
For both mesothelioma and pancreatic cancer, late-stage diagnosis is common. Statistics show that approximately 20 percent of pancreatic cancer patients survive more than one year beyond the diagnosis date. At the time of diagnosis, more than 90 percent of patient tumors have progressed beyond the point where surgical removal is an option. Similar statistics have been identified for mesothelioma patients, with few patients surviving beyond the one-year mark.
According to Ostroff, “Detection of these aggressive cancers at an earlier stage would identify patients for early treatment, which may improve their survival and quality of life.”
The new discovery was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research International Conference on Molecular Diagnostics in Cancer Therapeutic Development. The conference was held from September 27th to 30th in Denver.
Sources: EurekaAlert.org, DoctorsLounge.com