Fox Chase Cancer Center Researcher Receives Grant to Evaluate a Blood Test to Diagnose Mesothelioma at an Early, Curable Stage
PHILADELPHIA (March 1, 2005) -- Fox Chase Cancer Center molecular geneticist Joseph R Testa, PhD, FACMG , has received a $25,000 grant from the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Disease Society of West Chester, Pa. to study a blood test to diagnose mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, a type of chest cancer, is one of the most deadly occupational diseases and is directly related to the inhalation of loose asbestos fibers.
Testa, who directs the Human Genetics Program at Fox Chase, will use the grant money to evaluate a blood test for the detection of mesothelioma , which was developed by a Philadelphia-based cancer diagnostics company, Fujirebio. Researchers hope the blood test can allow doctors to diagnose mesothelioma at an early stage when it can be cured. Currently, mesothelioma is often diagnosed after it has advanced, when treatment is difficult.
"This test is designed to detect a protein that is present in greater amounts in people with mesothelioma," explained Testa. "Our job will be to evaluate the accuracy and specificity of the test. If it proves successful in identifying the presence of mesothelioma, this could be a significant discovery for those of us working to combat this awful disease."
In early testing by Fujirebio, the test identified the presence of soluble mesothelin related protein, or SMR. People with mesothelioma have a high concentration of SMR protein in their bodies. For the evaluation, blood samples from mesothelioma patients will be compared to blood samples from healthy volunteers.
"SMR protein may represent a useful marker in the blood similar to the way PSA is for prostate cancer," explained Testa. "If we can diagnose early-stage mesothelioma with a simple blood test, we can treat it more successfully and potentially cure many more people. Such a test would also allow us to monitor the body's response to treatment and screen at-risk individuals."
Asbestos workers and their families are at high risk for developing mesothelioma and other lung diseases because of their exposure to asbestos. There are currently no other studies targeting people at risk of developing mesothelioma for the early detection of the disease.
The Mesothelioma and Asbestos Disease Society raised the money for this award from the Meso Society's walk in Harrisburg in April 2004. This year's walk will be held in Philadelphia on April 10, 2005.
Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase also was among the first institutions to receive the National Cancer Institute’s prestigious comprehensive cancer center designation in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has achieved Magnet status for excellence three consecutive times. Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research and oversees programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. For more information, call 1-888-FOX-CHASE (1-888-369-2427).