Biomarkers in the prevention and follow-up of workers exposed to asbestos
Although in most developed countries the use of asbestos is banned, there is still a consistent portion of the world where asbestos extraction, trading and manufacturing of asbestos-made products is largely diffuse. Worldwide, hundreds of millions of people are at risk of developing an asbestos caused disease because of occupational, environmental or domestic exposure. The WHO estimates that asbestos is responsible for more than 100,000 deaths yearly. This scenario has prompted the research on biomarkers potentially useful for early diagnosis, prognosis and preventive programs on exposed population as well. Here we reviewed the up-to-date literature on this field of research highlighting that along with mesothelin and osteopontin (OPN), some more recently investigated molecules, such as high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) protein, fibulin-3 and some miRNAs showed very promising. Most of the carried-out studies showed an interesting diagnostic and prognostic performance of some biomarkers, but since they usually lack adequate either specificity or sensitivity, their use in screening or in preventive programs is still not recommended on a routine basis. However, this review suggests the need for more reliable experimental design involving larger population and preferring longitudinal screening of asbestos exposed individuals rather than a single baseline assessment investigation. In addition, given their better diagnostic accuracy, the use of panels including several biomarkers is highly recommended.