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Blood Test May Spot Asbestos-Linked Cancer

Test May Help Screen High-Risk People, Researchers Say

New Blood Test

Pass and colleagues did osteopontin blood tests on 190 people, 76 of whom had pleural mesothelioma. Sixty-nine patients had asbestos-linked lung disease that wasn't cancerous.

For comparison, the study also included 45 current or former smokers with no asbestos exposure.

Most participants who had been exposed to asbestos had worked in an asbestos-related trade for at least five years.

Study's Findings

Higher osteopontin blood levels were linked to pleural mesothelioma but not to noncancerous asbestos-related lung diseases, the study shows. There also was little difference in the osteopontin levels between the 69 noncancerous asbestos-related lung disease participants and the 45 people without asbestos exposure. Osteopontin levels were similar for men and women.

It's not yet clear if high blood osteopontin levels indicate other kinds of asbestos-related cancer.

Osteopontin and Cancer

Osteopontin has been studied as a possible marker for other cancers before. For instance, it's one of four proteins being tried as a potential blood test for ovarian cancer.

The researchers write that "asbestos workers with high osteopontin levels who do not appear to have mesothelioma should be evaluated to rule out the presence of other cancers."

Larger studies confirming the test's usefulness and evaluating its role for other cancers need to be done.

The new blood test isn't justified for the general public, write the researchers.

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