Almost all of us have had a blood test for one reason or another. It is a basic procedure for any routine physical. If your white blood cell count is elevated, it suggests an infection of some type and more often than not your doctor writes out a prescription for an antibiotic. After a few days the antibiotic destroys the microorganism or bacteria that caused our illness, and you assume your daily routine.

But just what is a biomarker? A biomarker is a specific physical trait used to measure or indicate the effects or progress of a disease, illness or condition. If a biomarker can be identified and validated, it can be used to diagnose the presence of a disease or aid in the treatment of a disease.

Since the 2005 publication of 100 Questions and Answers About Mesothelioma, significant progress has been made to find biomarkers for early detection and treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Two promising discoveries related to blood analysis and testing are discussed below:

Osteopontin – A Potential Marker for Mesothelioma

Osteopontin (OPN) is a protein which can be found in circulating blood and is associated with cancers.

The presence of the blood protein osteopontin was investigated in three subject groups. The study included 69 subjects with an asbestos-related pulmonary disease, 45 healthy subjects with no known asbestos exposure and 76 mesothelioma subjects. The OPN levels were found to be significantly higher in those diagnosed with mesothelioma as compared to those with pulmonary plaques and fibrosis. The osteopontin levels were clearly identified in 78% of the mesothelioma subjects, and had an accuracy of 85.5% when identifying those with mesothelioma as compared to subjects with benign lung conditions. The osteopontin levels between those with non-malignant asbestos disease and those with no asbestos exposure showed no sizeable difference.

It was concluded that serum osteopontin levels could be used to identify those persons with pleural mesothelioma from those with exposure to asbestos who do not have cancer.

MESOMARK – A Blood Test for Monitoring Mesothelioma

Another biomarker has been identified by the presence of soluble mesothelin-related proteins (SMRP) that are released into the blood stream by the diseased cells. Studies revealed that mesothelioma patients had a significantly higher level of SMRP than patients with other cancers or documented asbestos exposure. The study also found that SMRP levels rose as the disease progressed to more advanced stages.

MESOMARK® was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in 2007 under the Humanitarian Device Exemption (HDE) as an effective tool for patients who have been diagnosed with epithelial or biphasic mesothelioma (only) to monitor the progression of their disease.

MESOMARK® is a simple blood test that utilizes an Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) format to measure the Soluble Mesothelin-Related Proteins (SMRP) in the blood of an epithelial or biphasic mesothelioma patient. Elevated SMRP levels above 1.0 may suggest progression of the disease. The MESOMARK® test has been used by doctors in conjunction with PET/CT scan to monitor disease progression and management of treatment options for their patients.

The MESOMARK® test can only be performed in designated laboratories, and your physician must be registered with Fujirebio Diagnostics, Inc. To learn more about MESOMARK® visit its web site at www.fdi.com.

Reference: Pass, H. I., Lott D., Lonardo, F., et al. Asbestos Exposure, Pleural Mesothelioma, and Serum Osteopontin Levels. New England Journal of Medicine. 2005; 353: 1564-1573