New findings suggest that the blood cell test CTC-Chip, a Japanese method of blood testing, detects mesothelioma cells better than CellSearch, the current mesothelioma blood testing system used for diagnosing mesothelioma.

What Is Mesothelioma Blood Testing?

Sometimes the main mesothelioma tumor sheds mesothelioma cells that circulate throughout the bloodstream. Loose cancer cells are called circulating tumor cells (CTCs). If they can be detected, CTCs can alert doctors earlier. Being able to diagnose patients earlier means doctors can treat patients earlier, and mesothelioma responds better to treatment the earlier it’s started.

Unfortunately, finding rare tumor cells floating in a person’s blood isn’t easy in part because studying and capturing CTCs is still an emerging field. The struggle to find CTCs is apparent in cases of mesothelioma because the current CTC detection system used in America rarely finds mesothelioma cells.

CellSearch currently detects loose mesothelioma cells only about 6% of the time. However, the new Japanese CTC-Chip method can locate mesothelioma CTCs almost 70% of the time.

In addition to helping with diagnosis, the CTC-Chip can also help doctors determine patient prognosis. The researchers noticed that patients who had a higher CTC-count tended to have a poorer prognosis than those with a lower level of the circulating mesothelioma cells.

How the Japanese Blood Testing System Works

The CTC-chip system uses a microfluidic device—a silicon chip with a small pattern etched onto it. This pattern is then coated with antibodies that react with specific proteins associated with different cancers. For mesothelioma, the antibody will react with the protein called podoplanin.

If the doctors are unsure of the patient’s cancer type (which can happen with rare cancers like mesothelioma), they can easily redo the test with different antibodies to test for more than one type of cancer.

Once the test is ready to go, a small sample of the patient’s blood is pushed over the pattern where the CTCs will react to the antibodies and get stuck like a fly on tape. The CTCs then get dyed, so the researchers can confirm they’re cancerous. Doctors then count the CTCs to help doctors determine a patient’s prognosis.

CTC-Chip Can Improve Mesothelioma Diagnosis Procedures

Because mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer, it’s possible for it to be misdiagnosed as something other than cancer, like emphysema or bronchitis. Even if the doctor’s suspect cancer they might incorrectly diagnose the patient as having lung cancer or breast cancer—two much more common cancer types.

A misdiagnosis delays the patient from receiving the proper treatment quickly. When it comes to treating cancer, time matters. The sooner someone is diagnosed and started on a treatment plan, the more likely the treatment will work.

A reliable mesothelioma blood testing system, like CTC-Chip, can give patients the correct diagnosis sooner. As it stands, even if a doctor suspects cancer and orders a blood test, the current system will still not accurately detect mesothelioma cells. If relied upon as a diagnostic tool, the doctor may assume the patient doesn’t have mesothelioma, leading to a possible misdiagnosis.

However, if the CTC-chip mesothelioma blood testing system is used, then the chance of a patient receiving a correct diagnosis is much more likely. Patients will also be more likely to begin treatment before the mesothelioma advances too far, which can increase the likelihood of patient survival.

View Author and Sources

  1. "Detection of Circulating Tumor Cells with a Novel Microfluidic System in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma" NCBI. Retrieved from: Accessed December 19, 2018.
  2. "The CTC-Chip: An Exciting New Tool to Detect Circulating Tumor Cells in Lung Cancer Patients" NCBI. Retrieved from: Accessed December 19, 2018.
  3. "Capture of mesothelioma cells with ‘universal' CTC-chip" NCBI. Retrieved from: Accessed December 19, 2018.

Last modified: April 4, 2019