International researchers are using molecular profiling to identify different types of pleural mesothelioma tumors, according to an October 2019 study. These profiles allow doctors to distinguish tumors that otherwise look very similar under a microscope, which is essential to making a correct diagnosis and administering the most effective treatments.

New Findings May Help Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Patients

A 2019 study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has found a way to identify pleural mesothelioma tumors, which may help diagnose and treat patients with this rare form of cancer.

Researchers in the study used molecular profiling to determine the makeup of pleural mesothelioma tumors. Molecular profiling allows doctors to see inside tumors and observe how cancer cells are mutating within the body.

Understanding mesothelioma tumors on a molecular level is very important because not every tumor is the same. Some tumors contain more aggressive cells that can make treatment harder.

By using molecular profiling, though, researchers can hopefully make more accurate diagnoses and use treatments that will work best for those battling pleural mesothelioma.

Challenges of Mesothelioma Prognosis and Diagnosis

Studies like one done by the IARC are crucial because scientists are still studying how pleural mesothelioma develops. The cancer is extremely rare, with only 3,000 people being diagnosed annually.

Because it is so rare, mesothelioma is often mistaken for more common illnesses in its early stages. And, because mesothelioma develops over several decades, it often goes unnoticed until it has spread throughout the body.

Most patients are diagnosed with late-stage mesothelioma, by which point treatment options are limited.

Pleural Mesothelioma Prognosis

Most patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma die within two years after being diagnosed.

Adding to the problem is that scientists are still trying to learn more about this cancer. In a 2018 conference conducted by the European Reference Networks and the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, doctors agreed they needed better ways to make reliable mesothelioma diagnoses.

Molecular Profiles and Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

The IARC study identified three sets of tumors with distinct molecular features they hope will be useful in identifying mesothelioma tumors. The molecular profiles may allow researchers to understand why certain types of tumors and cells respond to specific treatments.

As noted in the study, mesothelioma tumors contain either sarcomatoid or epithelioid cells. Some tumors can also have both cells, and, in this case, the tumors are considered biphasic.

Biphasic or sarcomatoid tumors typically require more aggressive treatments, and patients with these tumors typically live for just 7-10 months after diagnosis. Epithelioid tumors are less aggressive and respond better to treatments.

Ultimately, the researchers were able to distinguish between tumors made up of the different cell types using by studying the molecular variations of each. Most notably, they found strong differences in the proteins and genes of all three tumor types.

This information may lead to: 

  • A better understanding of how mesothelioma develops
  • Earlier detection of mesothelioma
  • More effective, targeted treatments

These molecular profiles show promise to help improve prognosis, life expectancy, and survival times for mesothelioma patients.

Potential Benefits for Pleural Mesothelioma Patients

While the ultimate goal is to find a cure for mesothelioma, better methods to diagnose and treat this rare cancer are steps in the right direction.

That being said, it may take time before molecular profiling is widely used in mesothelioma treatment. Other doctors and researchers will want to confirm the results with their own tests.

While molecular profiling is not widely used to diagnose or treat mesothelioma at this time, you still have options if you are at risk.

For example, talk to your doctor immediately if you develop warning signs of pleural mesothelioma, such as difficulty breathing and swallowing. Early diagnosis and treatment can increase your chances of survival.

You can also ask your doctor about clinical trials available to mesothelioma patients. Through these trials, you may access new or upcoming mesothelioma treatment methods that may help extend your life.

View Author and Sources

  1. Alcala N, Mangiante L, Le-Stang N, Gustafson CE, Boyault S, Damiola F, et al. (2019, October 21). Redefining malignant pleural mesothelioma types as a continuum uncovers immune-vascular interactions. Retrieved December 3, 2019, from
  2. International Agency for Research on Cancer. (2019, October 25). New IARC study identifies molecular profiles of malignant pleural mesothelioma, with clinical impact. Retrieved December 3, 2019, from

Last modified: December 13, 2019