New Diagnostic Test Facilitates Earlier Detection in Pleural Mesothelioma Patients

Hand with IV

On April 4 in Orlando, Florida, a research team led by Dr. Harvey Pass discussed the results of a novel test used to detect pleural mesothelioma in its early stages.

These researchers believe the incidence of pleural cancer in the United States is approximately 3,000 new cases per year and is not expected to peak until about 2030.

The test, “Multiplex SOMAmer Assay” by Somalogic Inc., uses SOMAmers, which are chemically modified single-stranded DNA molecules that specifically bind to proteins associated with pleural cancer. Malignant mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer, is most commonly found in the protective lining of the lungs, called the pleura.

The major goal of the new diagnostic test is to detect the cancer early enough to effectively treat it. Unfortunately, due to its long latency period, the disease is usually not diagnosed until its later stages, limiting potential treatment options.

In order to find new ways to diagnose cases faster, the researchers conducted a broad search for new serum biomarkers using their aptamer-based proteomic platform. The team compared serum samples from 90 patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma to 80 asbestos-exposed controls.

During the test, the important biological information contained in secreted proteins and those released during apoptosis (the death of tumor cells) enabled doctors to easily diagnose the disease in its earliest stages of development. As a result, researchers discovered 19 significant biomarkers by applying a backwards selection strategy.

The results of the researchers’ test displayed an overall accuracy of 93 percent. Through their use of a 13-plex Random Forest classifier, their test was able to obtain a specificity of 100 percent and a sensitivity of 80 percent when distinguishing asbestos-exposed controls from blood samples. The test was also able to detect 15 out of 19 cases of Stage 1 or Stage 2 malignant pleural mesothelioma.


After graduating with an English degree from Southeastern University in 2010, Faith Franz came on board as a health and wellness writer for The Mesothelioma Center.

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