A higher energy form of radiation therapy known as carbon-ion radiotherapy (CIRT) is showing tremendous promise in the treatment of mesothelioma and other radiation resistant cancers, but its costs make it a distant hope for patients in the United States.
When mesothelioma cells are exposed to radiation’s intense energy, they are destroyed, which either destroys tumors or drastically reduces their size. The problem is radiation particles end up losing their energy at a specific point known as the Bragg peak, thus leaving the cancerous cells where the energy is lost less affected.
The new technology, CIRT, uses heavier particles, and therefore more energy impacts the cancerous cells at the Bragg Peak.
This means that there is more breakage of the mesothelioma cell DNA and its repair is less likely. Because of this, patients treated using carbon ion therapy need fewer treatments than is true of traditional radiation therapy. It also is less damaging to surrounding, non-cancerous tissue.
However, the technology has not yet been approved in the United States, and there are no clinical trials currently in the U.S. This is because in large part CIRT-capable facilities need a particle accelerator, and the cost to build a facility with that equipment is over $100 million.
Most of the research into CIRT’s impact on mesothelioma and other challenging cancers is happening at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, as well as in eastern Europe and Japan.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) has been looking into grants to explore building a research center, especially in collaboration with international research centers.
The hope is that as more is understood about the effectiveness of the therapy, particularly when combined with surgery, chemotherapy, and innovative therapies such as immunotherapy, that there will be more funding and enthusiasm for its use in the U.S.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and you would like information on the latest medical innovations for treatment, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.