As with any cancer, a malignant mesothelioma diagnosis can be treated through several means. While surgery cuts out diseased tissues, chemotherapy and radiation help destroy the tumors at the cellular level. However, not all patients make good candidates for certain treatments. Reasons why one form of therapy may not be appropriate include the possibility of it not working or causing side effects that impact a patient’s quality of life. This underscores the importance of physicians formulating an accurate mesothelioma prognosis.
One team of scientists suggested that measuring mesothelioma patients’ expression of the protein Ki67 may help doctors predict individuals’ survival time, as published in the American Journal of Clinical Oncology.
What do past researchers know about Ki67?
Giving a patient an accurate mesothelioma prognosis is important because it can help the individual make important plans. These may include financial arrangements, living situations and decisions about what line of treatment to pursue, if any.
Certain markers in the body’s cells can give doctors an idea of how quickly and severely a patient’s disease may progress, making this an important consideration when formulating a mesothelioma prognosis. These markers can also help doctors monitor a person’s response to medical treatment.
Previously, scientists from Germany and the University of California, Los Angeles suggested that measuring the degree of expression for the protein Ki67 can help doctors treating breast cancer patients. In their experiment, they looked at the Ki67 levels from biopsy samples collected from study participants who had breast cancer. Ultimately, the researchers concluded that the Ki67 expression may be an independent prognostic factor that can predict how breast cancer patients respond to certain treatments.
Additionally, experts from the Human Gene Compendium report that there are certain lab tests that link Ki67 and diseases such as lung cancer and lymphoma.
For the new study, scientists wanted to find out if Ki67 can help doctors form prognoses for mesothelioma patients as well.
In this experiment, the researchers collected specimens from 42 patients who were diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. After performing a laboratory test, the scientists divided their study participants into two groups based on whether they had high or low levels of Ki67 expression.
By the end of the study period, the authors of the study discovered that survival time tended to be worse among patients who were male, were at least 60 years old at the time of diagnosis, and had the sarcomatoid form of the disease, which is one of three types of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Additionally, those who had high expression levels of the protein Ki67 also had worse survival time compared to other subjects.
How can measurements of Ki67 be helpful?
Experts from the Environmental Working Group estimate that, every year in the U.S., more than 2,500 individuals die from malignant mesothelioma. That figure is not expected to hit its peak in the U.S., U.K. and Australia for another 10 years or so. The reason for this is that this form of cancer has a long latency period between when people experience exposure to asbestos and when they develop noticeable disease symptoms. By the time they realize they may be sick, the illness is usually at a fatal stage.
Today, most treatments for mesothelioma are palliative rather than curative. Furthermore, not all patients will respond the same way to all strategies. Having an effective tool for a mesothelioma prognosis, such as measurements of Ki67 expression, may help doctors and patients create their treatment plans more effectively in order to maximize comfort. This can take into account projected survival time, the potential for side effects, considerations for medical expenses and other factors.