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Are genetic biomarkers the key to treating mesothelioma?

Victims of malignant mesothelioma -- an aggressive form of cancer typically linked to asbestos exposure -- have few effective treatment options available today. In fact, while overall survival periods have increased in recent years due to the introduction of chemotherapy treatments, some estimates still put the average survival at only 14.5 months. Even worse, the response rate to chemotherapy when it comes to malignant mesothelioma is only roughly 40 percent. However, researchers in Slovenia have developed a model that will hopefully improve these numbers. Specifically, they recently studied whether genetic biomarkers can be used to create individualized treatment options for mesothelioma victims, which they hope will improve the response rate to chemotherapy.

Why biomarkers?

Doctors and researchers have long known that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment when it comes to cancer. Therefore, researchers involved in the Slovenian study -- which was recently published in the online journal Scientific Reports and made available on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website -- decided to see if they could develop an algorithm that would help determine the best treatment option for any given patient given certain biomarkers.

As part of this study, they genotyped 189 malignant mesothelioma patients, with each patient receiving a chemotherapy treatment of either gemcitabine/cisplatin or pemetrexed/cisplatin.

Based on the data they collected during the study, the researchers ultimately concluded that "effective chemotherapy could be recommended for 85.5 [percent]" of malignant mesothelioma victims by simply using the proposed algorithm developed by the researchers.

However, while this conclusion is certainly good news for victims of mesothelioma and asbestos, the researchers clearly stated that their findings still need to be confirmed in a prospective study.

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