Molecular biomarkers in malignant mesothelioma: state of the art

Pathology. 2011 Apr;43(3):201-12. doi: 10.1097/PAT.0b013e3283445e67.


Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is an aggressive tumour affecting the mesothelial surfaces of the pleural and peritoneal cavities and, rarely, the pericardium and the tunica vaginalis testis. Despite a ban of asbestos in many industrialised nations, the present high incidence of MM is expected to continue, due to the long latency period between first asbestos exposure and occurrence of disease, making it an important health issue for the future. The diagnosis of MM can be difficult, both from a clinical and pathological perspective. It is not unusual for patients to undergo several medical investigations without definitive diagnosis early in their course of illness. Understandably, there is intense interest in the discovery of markers that can be assessed in pleural effusions, histological specimens, and serum to assist with the difficult early diagnosis of MM. Considering the primary aetiological role of asbestos, there is theoretically an easily identifiable target population for screening with a biomarker with adequate sensitivity and specificity or with a combination of biomarkers. In this review we focus on biomarkers that have been examined in the setting of either early diagnosis of MM in symptomatic patients or screening of asbestos-exposed individuals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Early Diagnosis
  • GPI-Linked Proteins / analysis
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mesothelin
  • Mesothelioma / diagnosis*
  • Pleural Neoplasms / diagnosis*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • Mesothelin