The early detection of cancer can make a crucial difference in the effectiveness of subsequent patient treatment and prolonging life expectancy. While survival rates for those diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer have been relatively poor and a definitive cure still yet to be found, it is now possible for around a half of mesothelioma patients to live for up to two or more years.

However, it is still the case that mesothelioma is only diagnosed at the most advanced stages when the diffuse spread of malignant tumours has spread to other organ tissues and expected survival is often less than six months.

Modest progress

Despite medical advances, including the latest scanning technology and the application of new types of pre-or post operative procedures, current asbestosis treatments for mesothelioma have only made modest progress when compared to other types of cancer.

In the absence of finding a cure for mesothelioma, medical researchers around the globe continually investigate numerous innovative approaches to detecting the early signs. The procedures are often complex and frustrating with varying results, and always require further testing.

Whenever cancer research produces positive results in particular applications, clinicians may also consider if similar outcomes may be obtained if tested on those diagnosed with the fatal asbestos-related cancer of the lung linings. Currently, new DNA research being undertaken in Britain could provide hope to the 2,000 cases of mesothelioma, which continue to be diagnosed every year in the UK (Health & Safety Executive).

Detecting precancerous cells

It was recently reported that ultraviolet light was being used in a new blood test, which could help doctors in the early detection of cancer. The Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) blood test is designed to distinguish between healthy, precancerous and cancerous cells by measuring the degree of damage caused to the DNA of white blood cells by varying intensities of ultraviolet (UV) light.

White blood cells, which are part of the body’s natural healing process, are under stress when fighting diseases like cancer. Researchers have found that individuals diagnosed with cancer will have DNA, which is more easily damaged by UV light than those not diagnosed with cancer. However, the LGS test does not differentiate between specific cancer types and only detects if cancer is present by revealing the sensitivity to damage of all DNA in white blood cells.

Screening method for high risk patients

In the recent LGS tests, five different levels of ultraviolet light were applied to just over 200 blood samples, of which just under a half were obtained from healthy volunteers. The results corresponded exactly with the number of healthy blood samples, as well as differentiating between confirmed cancer patients and those suspected with “precancerous conditions.”

The researchers agree that more testing will need to be carried out, especially in the ability for LGS to determine the presence of other types of cancer, such as mesothelioma. Asbestos-related cancer has always been difficult to correctly identify but it is hoped that a screening method can be developed for high-risk patients who have been exposed to asbestos, or are genetically susceptible to contracting cancer disease.