Mesothelioma: early diagnosis potential using nose cell sample

Posted: 22nd Jun 11 1:00 PM

Epithelial Cells in the Nose Can Lead to Early Diagnosis of Lung Cancer and Potentially Mesothelioma

Typically, lung cancer is diagnosed through a lung biopsy which requires an often painful procedure of removing a small piece of lung tissue surgically, through a long needle or with a bronchoscope.

Now, Boston University Medical Center researchers say through a simple, minimally-invasive technique that takes a scraping from the interior of the nose, they can detect lung cancer in its earliest stage.

This technique may also be beneficial for the early detection of mesothelioma, an asbestos-related pulmonary cancer.

Recognizing that epithelial cells inside a person’s nose share the same genetic markers of those in people with lung cancer, the researchers collected nasal epithelial cells from thirty three smokers.  The patients also underwent bronchoscopies for suspicion of lung cancer – 22 were found to have lung cancer, and 11 had a benign lung disease.

From the nasal epithelial cells researchers identified 170 genes that were differentially expressed between patients with and without lung cancer.

Further analysis led researchers to determine that two-thirds of the subjects whose nasal cells had been tested had lung cancer.

Exposure to asbestos is a risk factor that increases the likelihood of a person developing lung cancer and other respiratory diseases including mesothelioma.

Pleural mesothelioma, a unique form of lung cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, is primarily caused by asbestos dust breathed into the lungs.

While cigarette smoking alone has no known causative affect on mesothelioma incidence, according to the National Cancer Institute the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure significantly increases the risk of developing cancer of the air passageways in the lung.

The most common and treatable histological subtype of mesothelioma is epithelioid mesothelioma, which is diagnosed in more than half of all mesothelioma diagnoses.

This subtype of the disease affects epithelial cells, which are found in the epithelium – a tissue lining found throughout the human body in areas that act as a barrier or separation between different body environments.

Researchers also found that genes linked to colon cancer and adenocarcinoma, as well as genes that trigger cell division and blood vessel growth, were expressed more heavily in patients with cancer. Genes involved in tumor suppression were also expressed at lower levels in these patients.

While pleural mesothelioma affects the outer lining of the lungs, lung cancer is a malignancy in the lung itself.  The two pulmonary cancers are often difficult to distinguish without thorough pathology tests; however, the treatments for lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma are often very similar.