Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a rare but serious form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure, and it can be extremely difficult to diagnose. Pleural effusion can have a variety of causes, both malignant and benign, and since mesothelioma is so rare, it is not necessarily the obvious culprit.
A study conducted by lead researcher Helen Davies of Oxford Centre for Respiratory Medicine and Oxford University look at pleural fluid samples from 209 subjects. What the study found was that samples from patients with mesothelioma contained mesothelin levels more than six times higher than those in samples from patients with metastatic carcinomas, and more than ten times higher than samples from patients with benign effusions. Mesothelin levels could help clinicians make a mesothelioma diagnosis much earlier than with other methods.
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