Serum, genetic and epigenetic markers of risk for developing, progress and treatment response in asbestos related diseases

Principal investigator at the Institute of Oncology Ljubljana: Viljem Kovač PhD

Asbestos related diseases still present a major problem in Slovenia as well as in the world. Asbestos exposure has been associated with the development of asbestosis, pleural plaques, diffuse pleural thickening and pleural effusion, and several types of cancer. One of the most aggressive and fatal cancers associated with asbestos exposure is malignant mesothelioma (MM). Asbestos was banned by law in Slovenia in 1996, but the number of new cases of MM is expected to increase at least until 2030 due to the long latency period and the fact that asbestos is still present in the environment.

As most patients present with advanced disease at the time of diagnosis, the average survival time is 14 months with multimodal treatment. Despite improved survival, response rates to chemotherapy are still only up to 40%. The increasing incidence and poor prognosis of MM calls for new more effective detection methods, including the identification of novel biomarkers for early and reliable detection of MM, especially in high-risk populations with a known history of asbestos exposure.

The aims of our study are:

  • to investigate potential serum, genetic and epigenetic biomarkers in individuals occupational exposed to asbestos and in MM patients to identify new potential biomarkers for developing asbestos related diseases and MM , for disease progression, treatment response and survival in MM;
  • to investigate the influence of interactions between different serum, genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors (asbestos exposure, smoking) on the risk for asbestos related diseases and MM, disease progression, treatment response and survival in MM patients;
  • to build and validate multivariate predictive models integrating the clinical and biomarker data into scoring system based decision algorithms that could be used in the clinical practice.

Details about the project are available on the website SICRIS: Serum, genetic and epigenetic markers of risk for developing, progress and treatment response in asbestos related diseases