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Diagnosing mesothelioma accurately is not easy. Even using standard diagnostic procedures like biopsies and imaging scans, a patient may still be misdiagnosed. A late or wrong diagnosis delays the time before the patient gets the treatment they need, sometimes for so long that treatment is no longer very useful.
A new cancer test may change this. Called the miRview and made by Rosetta Genomics, it is mostly used in litigation to prove or disprove a patient has mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure. However, this test may be used more routinely in the future and may help patients get earlier, more accurate diagnoses for mesothelioma.
The Difficulty of Diagnosing Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose for a number of reasons. A patient may go to the doctor for symptoms that mimic many less serious conditions or even other types of lung cancer. Because mesothelioma is rare, it is not often considered a possible diagnosis until other conditions have been ruled out.
Even using diagnostic techniques to image the chest and lungs can be faulty. Finding abnormal tissue or fluid in the lungs or pleura is not indicative of mesothelioma. Biopsies used to examine suspicious cells under a microscope can also be misinterpreted. It is difficult to distinguish between cancer cells that came from the mesothelium and those that came from other parts of the body.
The miRview Meso Test
One of the difficulties in diagnosing mesothelioma is distinguishing it from other cancers. Even when tests show a patient has cancer in or around the lungs, determining whether that cancer started in the mesothelium or is one of several subtypes of lung cancer is not easy. Rosetta Genomics developed a biomarker test that can make that process easier and more accurate.
The miRview test uses microRNA biomarkers, molecules that indicate the presence of a certain disease, to accurately determine the origin of cancer cells in the body. The test is relatively new, but it has shown it can identify the likely primary origin of cancer cells. The miRview meso test is specific to mesothelioma and can distinguish between cancer cells caused by mesothelioma and those caused by a type of lung cancer.
The sensitivity of the test has been found to be 100 percent, while the specificity is 94 percent; better accuracy than any other test for mesothelioma. The test only requires that a doctor perform a biopsy to get a sample of tissue. Usually a needle biopsy is sufficient. The sample can then be tested with the miRview meso test to get results.
The miRview meso test is fairly new. It has so far largely been used in legal cases in which former employees are suing their employer over asbestos exposure that may have caused mesothelioma. These cases have been complicated by the fact that it is so difficult to distinguish between mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure and lung cancer from other causes. If a simple test can confirm or deny asbestos-caused mesothelioma, it can result in fairer outcomes for lawsuits.
The miRview tests, including miRview meso, were developed by a company called Rosetta Genomics. It has focused on microRNA technology, using biomarkers first discovered in the 1990s. It took years to discover that they can be used as biomarkers for disease. Rosetta has so far discovered hundreds of unique segments of microRNA that can be used to diagnose a number of different types of cancer.
The potential for Rosetta’s tests to provide more accurate and earlier cancer diagnoses is enormous. For people with aggressive and difficult cancers like mesothelioma, this test could literally be a life saver. More research is needed before miRview becomes a regular test for mesothelioma. Current clinical trials, for instance, are examining whether this test is cost-effective as compared to traditional diagnostic techniques.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.