Article Abstract

Molecular markers and new diagnostic methods to differentiate malignant from benign mesothelial pleural proliferations: a literature review

Authors: Rossella Bruno, Greta Alì, Gabriella Fontanini


Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is an aggressive tumor associated with asbestos exposure. Histopathological analysis of pleural tissues is the gold standard for diagnosis; however, it can be difficult to differentiate malignant from benign pleural lesions. The purpose of this review is to describe the most important biomarkers and new diagnostic tools suggested for this differential diagnosis. There are many studies concerning the separation between MPM and benign pleural proliferations from both pleural tissues or effusions; most of them are based on the evaluation of one or few biomarkers by immunohistochemistry (IHC) or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs), whereas others focused on the identification of MPM signatures given by microRNA (miRNA) or gene expression profiles as well as on the combination of molecular data and classification algorithms. None of the reported biomarkers showed adequate diagnostic accuracy, except for p16 [evaluated by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH)] and BAP1 (evaluated by IHC), both biomarkers are recommended by the International Mesothelioma Interest Group guidelines for histological and cytological diagnosis. BAP1 and p16 showed a specificity of 100% in discerning malignant from benign lesions because they are exclusively unexpressed or deleted in MPM. However, their sensitivity, even when used together, is not completely sufficient, and absence of their alterations cannot confirm the benign nature of the lesion. Recently, the availability of new techniques and increasing knowledge regarding MPM genetics led to the definition of some molecular panels, including genes or miRNAs specifically deregulated in MPM, that are extremely valuable for differential diagnosis. Moreover, the development of classification algorithms is facilitating the application of molecular data for clinical practice. Data regarding new diagnostic tools and MPM signatures are absolutely promising; however, before their application in clinical practice, a prospective validation is necessary, as these approaches could surely improve the differential diagnosis between malignant and benign pleural lesions.