Malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, generally forms in either the lung cavity (pleural mesothelioma) or the abdominal cavity (peritoneal mesothelioma). The two types of mesothelioma share many characteristics, but are often treated using different protocols. One of the treatment approaches that has proven most successful in peritoneal mesothelioma is the use of a heated chemotherapy bath following surgical resection of mesothelioma tumors. Now that procedure is being tested in pleural mesothelioma patients, with different chemotherapy combinations being analyzed to find what is most effective.
The mesothelioma researchers conducting the phase I clinical trial represent some of the shining lights in the treatment of this fatal disease, and practice in facilities ranging from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Its aim is to study the best and safest dosage for the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine in combination with cisplatin: previously, only cisplatin has been used in the procedure, but gemcitabine has proven effective in the treatment of other types of cancer. The patients being treated were all diagnosed at either stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma, the stages at which patients are considered to gain the greatest benefit from surgical removal of mesothelioma tumors. Of the 104 pleural mesothelioma patients studied over the four year period, about half underwent extra pleural pneumonectomy and the other half had pleurectomy decortication, the lung-sparing operation that removes areas of the pleural membrane, along with any tumors and other impacted tissue or organs.
Unlike previous studies which have shown that an intravenous combination of the two drugs had little impact on the patients’ mesothelioma, the use of the heated chemotherapy bath poured directly into the surgical site yielded a marked improvement over the average prognosis of 6 to 12 months, providing an average survival of 20.3 months, half of which was progression free. The researchers will continue to investigate this treatment approach.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the ongoing research into new treatment protocols provides great hope. For more information on what’s new in mesothelioma treatment and the resources available, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.