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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Improved asbestos cancer test

25th August 2009

Researchers at Oxford University have created an improved test for a type of cancer caused by asbestos, known as mesothelioma.


Mesothelioma tumours develop on the lung's surface and are hard to treat with chemotherapy. They are thought to be caused when people have inhaled dust expelled by asbestos.

Tradespeople, such as plumbers and electricians, are particularly susceptible to the condition, which can take many years to show symptoms.

Experts think that the amount of people with the disease in the UK will reach 2,200 by 2013.

More than 90% of people who have mesothelioma develop pleural effusion, where fluid builds up on the lungs.

The researchers looked at methods to distinguish the condition as "a cause of" pleural effusion. 

Currently a lab test known as pleural fluid cytology is used which tries to locate cancerous cells.

The researchers developed a more sensitive test using fluid samples from 200 people and measuring the amount of protein meothelin.

They discovered that meothelin levels in patients with mesothelioma were "six times higher" than people who had lung cancer and "ten times greater" than those with a benign tumour.

Dr Helen Davies, who worked on the research, said: "This study suggests a way for clinicians to more readily identify cases of mesothelioma from the start."

She added: "Because mesothelioma has a median survival time of 12 months, minimising the number of invasive procedures and tests patients require is crucial to reduce morbidity and the time they need to spend in hospital."


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