“Despite predictions of decline in incidences of mesothelioma, global incidences are increasing,” write Goldberg Segalla’s Paul L. Knobbe and Lynn A. Lehnert — however, new mechanisms for diagnosing the condition and research into possible genetic connections may result in earlier diagnoses and more effective treatment.
In an article for Insights, a Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC) publication, Paul and Lynn explain the challenges of diagnosing and combatting mesothelioma, new research into detection and treatment, and possible impacts of the same on mesothelioma litigation nationally.
Some of this research focuses on biomarkers. “Biomarkers are distinct biochemical, genetic, or molecular characteristics indicating a particular biological condition or process,” they explain. Some — including glycodelin and circulating microRNAs — are the subject of current research. This research could confirm that these biomarkers are reliable indicators of the development of mesothelioma, which could lead to earlier diagnoses and more successful treatments — which would in turn have an effect on mesothelioma litigation.
Paul and Lynn also turn their attention to the links between genetic mutations and cancer. They cite “growing evidence” that certain genetic variations “interact with environmental asbestos exposure to increase the risk for malignant mesothelioma.” Research has been complicated and results remain inconclusive, but many researchers “have not discounted the possibility of a genetic link between genes and malignant mesothelioma.” New studies may yield less ambiguous results.
Finally, Paul and Lynn address cancer stem cells, which may be able to be used in diagnoses to differentiate between malignant mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos, and general lung cancer, which can have many causes. So far, research in this area has not turned up any type of stem cell that could serve this purpose — but efforts continue.
Closing with “practice pointers” Paul and Lynn say that “Defense counsel should search the plaintiff’s medical records” for possible biomarkers for mesothelioma, including:
Additionally, they say, “established genetic mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, or a diagnosis of BAP1 Tumor Predisposition Syndrome (BAP1-TPDS), may also be telling in the prediction, diagnosis, and treatment of [mesothelioma].”
These attorneys, both from the firm’s St. Louis office, bring a unique and powerful mix of backgrounds and insights to the topic. Paul has handled numerous asbestos exposure and product liability matters, and is a leading national authority on current issues related to medical practice, as well as discovery techniques. Lynn draws on an extensive scientific background — which includes working on the Human Genome Project — in her practice litigating intellectual property and toxic tort matters, especially those involving complex and cutting-edge scientific disputes.