The researchers were seeking to find a method to distinguish mesothelioma as a cause of pleural effusion, the build-up of fluid in the pleural cavity surrounding the lungs. Pleural effusion has many causes, but more than 90% of people with mesothelioma have this symptom.
The study looked at levels of the protein mesothelin - which is released in high quantities in the pleural fluid of most patients with mesothelioma.
It was found that quantities of the protein were much greater in patients with mesothelioma than in those with secondary lung cancers, and 10 times higher than those with benign conditions.
It is hoped that this technique will allow doctors to diagnose mesothelioma at an earlier stage, using fewer invasive procedures. This will mean doctors can intervene at an earlier stage to treat the cancer, and claims for compensation for mesothelioma can be instigated earlier.
The study is due to be published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine at the start of September.
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