Researchers have found that a recently discovered group of 3 genes that indicates possible greater mesothelioma survival in patients with pleural mesothelioma.

Someone’s genetic makeup determines so much about them: their eye color, height and, possibly, their risk of developing mesothelioma. Now, a new study has shown that 3 genes, in particular, may hold the key to classifying patients as low or high-risk of mesothelioma development and survival.

Mesothelioma Genes Can Help Develop New Treatments

When researchers plugged these 3 genes from mesothelioma patients—LSM6, GZMB and HJURP—into a math formula, they were able to predict which patients would have a better prognosis and overall mesothelioma survival.

In addition to helping doctors determine a patient’s possible survival time, the discovery of these genes could also help doctors make new targeted therapies. Targeted mesothelioma therapies could reduce the risk of a poor prognosis for certain at-risk patients.

Genes As Biomarkers for Mesothelioma

Biomarkers are physical characteristics that doctors and scientists can measure to determine a patient’s physical wellbeing. For example, some of the current biomarkers for mesothelioma are substances doctors measure in a patient’s blood, lung fluid or tumor tissues, including:

  • Soluble mesothelin
  • Osteopontin
  • Fibulin-3
  • MicroRNAs
  • MUC21
  • Thrombospondin-1
  • Glypican-1

Except for MUC21, which doesn’t appear in epithelioid mesothelioma (one of 3 main mesothelioma cell types), the biomarkers can tell doctors where a person may have mesothelioma if their blood contains more of these substances than usual.

There are different types of biomarkers:

  • Diagnostic: Diagnostic biomarkers, help doctors know if the patient is sick or healthy and what kind of illness they have. MUC21 can help doctors know whether a patient has adenocarinoma (lung cancer) or epithelioid mesothelioma because it appears in one and not the other.
  • Prognostic: Prognostic biomarkers (like this newly discovered group of 3 genes) help doctors determine how slowly or quickly the disease will progress and what the likely outcome will be even with treatment.
  • Predictive: Predictive biomarkers inform doctors about how successful a particular treatment will be for the patient. At this time there are no good predictive biomarkers for mesothelioma.

Unlike some biomarkers which need to be extracted from the tumor or fluid in the lungs, genetic biomarkers can be found using a blood test.

About the New Genes and Mesothelioma Survival

In the recent study by Jian-Guo Zhou and his team, the researchers set out to find a prognostic biomarker for mesothelioma because there aren’t any current ones. Knowing a patient’s prognosis is very important.

Knowing a patient’s prognosis helps doctors determine what treatment options are available to that patient. Additionally, knowing the prognosis allows researchers to better understand cancer and design more effective clinical trials.

The risk score of mesothelioma based on these 3 genes gives doctors a better idea of how long their patient is likely to survive. Low-risk patients in this study had a median survival of 622.5 days. High-risk patients had a median survival of only 243 days. This information can also tell doctors which patients are better candidates for surgery.

The information collected from prognostic biomarkers can also help the wider mesothelioma community focus their research efforts. For example, now that researchers know that these 3 genes play a role in predicting a mesothelioma prognosis, researchers can try to find new treatments that target these genes to bring patients from the high-risk category to the low-risk group.

Biomarkers and the Future of Mesothelioma Diagnostics

While there is only one prognostic biomarker and no predictive biomarkers, the reason that most research on mesothelioma biomarkers focuses on diagnostic biomarkers is that there is no one reliable diagnostic biomarker. Because mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose, the medical community needs to find better ways to diagnose patients sooner.

The longer mesothelioma is left untreated, the harder it is to treat. Without good diagnostic biomarkers, mesothelioma may be mistaken for a more common disease, causing patients to undergo the wrong treatments.

While researchers haven’t found the perfect biomarker for mesothelioma yet, many are searching for it. In the meantime, all of the other biomarkers are opening up doors to different forms of targeted therapies that could improve mesothelioma survival one day lead to a cure.