Mesothelioma Treatment Options


There are different treatment options for patients with mesothelioma including the standard (or currently used) therapies, as well as experimental treatments being tested in clinical trials designed to improve current treatments or gain new information about new treatments. And more therapies are being developed regularly.

There are four standard mesothelioma treatments currently used, according to the National Cancer Institute:

Surgery – Types of surgery for mesothelioma patients include:

  • Wide local incision involves removing part of the lining of the lungs, chest and part of the outside surface of the lungs.
  • Plurectomy and decortication involves the removal of part of the covering of the lungs, lining of the chest, and part of the outside surface of the lungs.
  • Extraplural pneumonectomy is a surgery to remove one whole lung and part of the lining of the chest, diaphragm, and lining of the sac around the heart.
  • Pleurodesis is a surgery that uses chemicals or drugs to make a scar in the space between the layers of the pleura to stop the buildup of fluid in the pleural cavity.

Following surgery, some patients may be treated with or radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Radiation therapy – uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy for mesothelioma patients:

  • External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. It may also be used for palliative therapy to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
  • Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

Chemotherapy – involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing or dividing. Chemotherapy is given either by mouth, or as an injection into a vein or the muscle. Sometimes combination chemotherapy (the use of more than one anticancer drug) may be used. Another option for peritoneal mesothelioma patients is hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, which involves pumping heated anticancer drugs into and out of the abdomen to kill cancer cells that remain.

Targeted therapy – a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to attack specific cancer cells. These therapies usually cause less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

New developments in mesothelioma treatments

New mesothelioma treatments are being developed and tested regularly, according to the American Cancer Society. Some of these new therapies include:

  • Photodynamic therapy is a new technique being studied in clinical trials for treatment of mesothelioma. It involves the injection of a light-activated drug into the vein. The drug is designed to pick up cancer cells as it spreads through the body. A few days later, a special red light is placed in the chest that triggers a chemical change that activates the drug and kills cancer cells.
  • Gene therapy is being studied for mesothelioma. The process involves adding new genes to cancer cells to make them easier to kill.
  • Immunotherapy, also called cancer vaccines, are designed to make the body’s immune system fight the cancer. These vaccines are currently being tested in clinical trials in mesothelioma patients.
  • Virus therapies are being studied to treat mesothelioma with the hope that these specially designed viruses can either infect or kill cancer cells directly, or prompt the immune system to attach cancer cells.

Mesothelioma patients may want to discuss with their doctor about the possibility of participating in clinical trials designed to improve current treatments or test the safety and effectiveness of new ones. For some patients, a clinical trial may be the best – or only – treatment option.

Information about clinical trials can be found on the National Cancer Institute website.