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Toronto Team Reviews Various Novel Approaches to Mesothelioma Treatment

Mesothelioma is one of the most challenging diagnoses that a patient can receive. This rare form of cancer impacts approximately 3,500 patients in the United States each year, and there are several characteristics that make it extremely difficult to treat. Among these are the fact that the disease has a long latency period that allows it to grow unabated for decades before it is diagnosed. This essentially gives the cancer a “head start” that physicians have been unable to overcome – the average life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient is less than two years following diagnosis.

Attempts to find effective treatment for the disease are also stymied by the fact that different cell types, locations and genetic traits of the patient have an impact on the success of available protocols. As a result modern medicine has tried a number of different therapies, with many of them offered in combination, in what is known as a multi-modality approach. Patients may receive a variety of treatments, including radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and gene therapy. In a recent paper published in Seminars in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Dr. Laura Donahoe and her colleagues at the Toronto Mesothelioma Research Program have introduced a number of the more novel approaches that are currently being investigated. Her summary highlights a new protocol in which radiotherapy is provided before mesothelioma surgery, exposing one side of the chest to radiation before an aggressive surgery known as extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) is performed. EPP removes the entire lung on the impacted side, and the idea of offering radiation prior to the lung’s removal offers several benefits. “The rationale behind this protocol is to maximize both the tumoricidal and immunogenic potential of the radiotherapy while minimizing the radiation toxicity to the ipsilateral lung,” she writes. “Our initial trial demonstrated the feasibility of this approach and has shown encouraging results in patients with epithelial histology.”

In addition to her summary of her own studies, Dr. Donahoe’s report also highlighted ongoing or recent clinical trials in which induction therapies were used in the treatment of mesothelioma. These included the use of Interferon-a, the use of the measles virus, the use of Defactinib, and the use of Dasatinib. Each of these approaches were designed to either interrupt cell growth, activate immune responses, or attack mesothelioma stem cells. Clinical trials are viewed by many as the best hope for finding a cure for this deadly disease.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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