Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

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

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
3.04.00  Medical sciences  Oncology   

Code Science Field
B200  Biomedical sciences  Cytology, oncology, cancerology 

Code Science Field
3.02  Medical and Health Sciences  Clinical medicine 
asbestos diseases, biomarkers, clinical-pharmacogenetic models, exosomes, malignant mesothelioma, miRNA, personalized medicine
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (15)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  05299  MSc Niko Arnerić  Public health (occupational safety)  Retired researcher  2017 - 2020  136 
2.  34769  Tanja Blagus  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2017 - 2020  71 
3.  12218  PhD Metoda Dodič Fikfak  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2017 - 2020  1,229 
4.  11711  PhD Vita Dolžan  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Head  2017 - 2020  764 
5.  23759  PhD Alenka Franko  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2017 - 2020  386 
6.  33110  PhD Katja Goričar  Oncology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  287 
7.  16229  PhD Viljem Kovač  Medical sciences  Researcher  2017 - 2020  297 
8.  52660  Teja Lavrin  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2020  15 
9.  24288  PhD Metka Lenassi  Natural sciences and mathematics  Researcher  2017 - 2020  201 
10.  24781  MSc Barbara Možina  Medical sciences  Researcher  2017 - 2020  82 
11.  36486  PhD Pia Pužar Dominkuš  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Junior researcher  2017 - 2018  42 
12.  28506  PhD Urška Sivka  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2019 - 2020  19 
13.  20176  PhD Uroš Smrdel  Oncology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  119 
14.  32452  PhD Danijela Štrbac  Medical sciences  Researcher  2017 - 2020  42 
15.  52340  Maja Žugec  Public health (occupational safety)  Junior researcher  2018 - 2020  12 
Organisations (3)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0302  Institute of Oncology Ljubljana  Ljubljana  5055733000  15,434 
2.  0312  University Medical Centre Ljubljana  Ljubljana  5057272000  77,334 
3.  0381  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Medicine  Ljubljana  1627066  48,182 
Asbestos related diseases represent an important health problem and a huge economic burden. Even though asbestos use has been banned in Slovenia, their incidence is still high due to the long latency period and the fact that asbestos is still present in the environment. Asbestos exposure has been associated with the development of asbestosis, pleural plaques, diffuse pleural thickening and pleural effusion, as well as several types of cancer, most notably malignant mesothelioma (MM), an aggressive cancer with poor prognosis and short survival. Diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers that would enable early and reliable detection of asbestos related diseases and improve treatment outcome are severely needed. Several studies have already shown that different serum (soluble and exosome-bound), epigenetic (miRNA), genetic (single nucleotide polymorphisms) and environmental factors along with interactions between them may affect both disease risk and treatment outcome. Blood based biomarkers, especially novel classes such as cell free microRNA and extracellular vesicles secreted from tumor cells, could improve noninvasive detection of asbestos related diseases among individuals exposed to asbestos. However, there are currently no validated biomarkers or their combinations that could be used in the clinical practice. The aim of our study is therefore to identify new potential biomarkers for risk of developing asbestos related diseases or MM and biomarkers for disease progression, treatment response and survival in MM. We also wish to investigate the influence of interactions between different biomarkers and environmental factors on the risk for asbestos related diseases and on treatment response in MM patients. Based on identified biomarkers we will prepare and validate multivariate predictive models of MM treatment response models integrating clinical and biomarker data that could be used for guiding treatment selection in clinical practice.
Significance for science
The project builds on the results of our previous applied research projects in the field of asbestos diseases, where our results already made an important scientific contribution and upgrades it with up-to-date methodologies and approaches for solving current scientific problems. The important contribution of the proposed appplied research project to science is the identification of new potential diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for asbestos diseases, as well as personalized treatment for malignant mesothelioma supported with clinical-pharmacogenetic models. Thus the results of the project will be applied on the one hand and will contribute to the development of personalized medicine. On the other hand, our results will also allow a better understanding of molecular processes and the environmental, genetic and epigenetic factors that influence the risk of developing asbestos diseases and the progression and response to treatment of malignant mesothelioma. Exosome and miRNAs represent a remarkable tool for studying the molecular processes associated with asbestos diseases. With this we can also indirectly contribute to a better understanding of the underlying molecular processes and to identify potential targets for new approaches to the treatment of asbestos disease. The planned research project, although applicative in nature, thus has a great potential to lead to important scientific findings.
Significance for the country
We expect that the findings of the study will have an important impact on the society. Considering that the asbestos-related diseases, especially malignant mesothelioma, are expected to increase in Slovenia for at least two more decades and as the incidence has still not reached a plateau in the countries where asbestos was banned in the 1980s, the results of our study will be crucial for the identification of groups of asbestos exposed people with an increased mesothelioma risk. Considering the extent of the problem of asbestos related diseases, we expect that the findings of our study will also have an important positive impact on the economy as they may reduce the financial burden of the society because of the late recognition of these diseases. The findings of the project will also have a direct impact on the co-financing organization, Salonit Anhovo, gradbeni materiali, d.d, that employed and still employs most of the subjects included in the study. The findings of the project may contribute to an earlier diagnosis and a more effective treatment of asbestos related-diseases in the present as well as former workers of that company and other companies that have used asbestos.
Most important scientific results Interim report, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Interim report, final report
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