Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a rare and aggressive malignancy that most commonly affects the pleural lining of the lungs. It has a strong association with exposure to biopersistent fibers, mainly asbestos (80% of cases) and-in specific geographic regions-erionite, zeolites, ophiolites, and fluoro-edenite. Individuals with a chronic exposure to asbestos generally have a long latency with no or few symptoms. Then, when patients do become symptomatic, they present with advanced disease and a worse overall survival (about 13/15 months). The fibers from industrial production not only pose a substantial risk to workers, but also to their relatives and to the surrounding community. Modern targeted therapies that have shown benefit in other human tumors have thus far failed in MPM. Overall, MPM has been listed as orphan disease by the European Union. However, molecular high-throughput profiling is currently unveiling novel biomarkers and actionable targets. We here discuss the natural evolution, mainly focusing on the novel concept of molecular epidemiology. The application of innovative endpoints, quantification of genetic damages, and definition of genetic susceptibility are reviewed, with the ultimate goal to point out new tools for screening of exposed subject and for designing more efficient diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.
- molecular epidemiology
- personalized medicine