Mesothelioma and chemotherapy research

19 May 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

This week BBC News / Health reported on a recent study published by The Lancet, which features independent and authoritative commentary on global medicine, including research and analysis from all regions of the world. The study suggests that chemotherapy is not effective in dealing with , which is an asbestos-induced cancer that effects the lungs and, more rarely, the abdomen.

The results are based on a study of 409 patients, mostly from the United Kingdom, which set out to assess the potential benefits of combining active symptom control, which usually involves steroid drugs and radiotherapy, with chemotherapy. Results showed no real benefit from adding the chemotherapy drugs compared with just treating the symptoms of the disease.

The BBC quotes one of the authors of the study, Dr Richard Stephens from the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit, as saying, “While thousands are and will be affected by this deadly disease, our trial, which is one of the few large trials ever conducted in this disease, emphasizes how difficult mesothelioma is to treat. This is mainly because mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lung. This makes it hard to target.”

One chemotherapy drug, vinorelbine, was shown by the study to have some promise, but researchers do not think blanket chemotherapy treatment is a promising direction for treatment of mesothelioma, according to the Lancet report.

Researchers do not necessarily consider these findings to be bad news, as a study that defines what does not help can be beneficial to patient health because it helps reduce the chance that patients will undergo stressful treatments that are ineffective.

Results of a completely different chemotherapy study conducted by researchers at Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center were released May 18, revealing that chemotherapy given in conjunction with cancer vaccines may actually boost the immune system’s response to the vaccines, according to a report by ScienceDaily.

The Duke study focused on a drug used to treat lymphoma, but could have implications for clinical trials with vaccines being used to treat many cancers including lung cancer, brain tumors and colorectal cancer.

According to the FDA, it is the goal of clinical trials not to prevent cancer, but to treat existing tumors. The idea is to train the person’s immune system to recognize the living cancer cells and attack them.

In July 2007, the American Association for Cancer Research examined the issue of cancer vaccines and, according to a report by Medical News Today, they found that “ongoing therapeutic cancer vaccine trials have yet to show evidence of vaccines spurring a patient’s immune system to shrink tumors – yet patients who receive these vaccines in trials tend to live longer and respond better to subsequent treatment.”

The full study, titled Cancer Vaccines: Moving Beyond Current Paradigms is available to read online at Clinical Cancer Research.

Full results of the Duke study will be presented May 31 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago, Ill.

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