The biotech company Somalogic announced this week at the Fourth AACR International
Conference on Molecular Diagnostics in Cancer Therapeutic Development
a new technology that could allow doctors to identify mesothelioma in
patients before they show visible symptoms.
Somalogic scientists used blood samples from mesothelioma patients and
were able to develop aptameters (oligonucleic acid or peptide molecules)
that bind to proteins expressed by mesothelioma cells. These biomarkers
are present in the blood at extremely low concentrations, so conventional
chemical analysis cannot find them. The use of proteomics array technology
and genetic material specific to the protein allows discovery of the disease
early in its development.
Somalogic scientists report that they have identified 19 biomarkers for
mesothelioma. They found a specificity of 100% for those markets. Sensitivity
was 80%. If these numbers hold through further development, the diagnostic
process would be able to identify the large majority of mesothelioma cases
with some false positives.
If this technology proves reliable it could be used in a screening process
for people with a history of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is known to cause
mesothelioma, but the latency period is very long and the symptoms often
don’t manifest until the disease has progressed to a point where
treatment options are limited. Early discovery of mesothelioma would give
doctors and patients more options and improve the prognosis of those afflicted
According to Somalogic clinical research director Rachel Ostroff, Ph.D.,
“Validation studies are underway, which we hope will lead to the
development of diagnostic tests that hold clinical benefits for patients."
We will update this story when the results of the next round of studies