Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Treating Mesothelioma

Because this is such a rare cancer, it has been hard for doctors to compare the value of different treatments. Since many doctors have little or no experience treating this disease, you may be referred to a specialist at a large medical center.Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.One problem with treating mesothelioma is that it does not grow as a single mass. Instead it tends to spread along surfaces, nerves, and blood vessels. This makes it hard for one or more types of treatment to get rid of all of the disease.While surgery is not likely to cure the cancer, it might extend the patient’s life.Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, chemotherapy may be given as the main treatment or along with surgery. Chemotherapy for this disease is given to relieve symptoms, not to cure the cancer.As a rule, radiation treatment doesn’t help much for mesothelioma, and the need to treat a large part of the lung leads to problems with lung damage. But radiation can be used along with surgery to kill small areas of cancer that cannot be seen and removed during surgery. It can also be used as a way to ease symptoms such as shortness of breath, pain, bleeding, or trouble with swallowing. If fluid builds up in the chest, radioactive drugs can be put into the space after the fluid is drawn out. This might help keep the fluid from coming back.

New in Mesothelioma Research

There is always research going on in the area of mesothelioma. Much of this research has focused on learning exactly how asbestos changes normal cells and their DNA to cause cancer. Understanding how these fibers produce cancer might help us find ways to prevent those changes.Now that we know about the dangers of asbestos, we can limit or stop its use in homes, public buildings, and the workplace. But rules to protect people from asbestos are much less strict (or they do not exist at all) in some other countries.Research is also going on to learn about the role (if any) of a virus (SV40) that has been linked to mesothelioma in some studies.Because chemotherapy drugs have not worked very well against advanced mesothelioma, several new ideas are now being studied. These include drugs which kill cancers by stopping their blood supply and drugs which interfere with the ability of some cancer cells to grow quickly.Doctors are always learning more about the best way to treat people with mesothelioma. Treatments that combine surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are now being studied and may provide the most promising option for some patients.New drugs, along with other types of treatments, are now being tested in clinical trials.Another new approach is a type of gene therapy. This treatment uses special viruses that have been changed in the lab. The virus is injected into the space around the lungs where it infects the cancer cells. When this happens, the virus in turn injects a gene into the cancer that may help immune system cells to attack the cancer.

Research at UAB

The (UAB) Comprehensive Cancer Center is a research and teaching hospital, and is currently conducting a number of studies on the treatment of mesothelioma.In 2005, UABs Spring/Summer magazine published information about ongoing studies being conducted by Katri Selander, M.D., Ph.D., a Cancer Center Associate Scientist, and , M.D., about the effects of bisphosphonates on cancer cells.Bisphosphonates are drugs that are commonly used to treat and prevent osteoporosis. They also are used to treat metastatic breast and prostate cancers.The UAB article reported that Drs. Selander and Triozzi “have examined the effects of bisphosphonates on cancer cell cultures and in animal models, and have found that the drugs kill mesothelioma cells in both.” Further results of these studies were reported in the May 1, 2006 issue of Clinical Cancer Research, Vol. 12, 2862-2868; and in the European Journal of Pharmacology, Volume 559, Issue 1, dated March 15, 2007. Key points of the article in Clinical Cancer Research said that “the diagnositc use of radioactive bisphosphonates has revealed the accumlation of bisphosphonates in mesothelioma” and said that results of the studies “support further study of bisphosphonates in the management of mesothelioma.” The European Journal of Pharmacology report states that “Pre-clinical studies indicate that bisphosphonates also ihibit the growth of various cancer cells in vitro” and “in … mouse AB-12 mesothelioma cells.” For more information, visit UAB’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.