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Mesothelioma Treatment

Standard Mesothelioma Treatment Options: The most promising treatment option for mesothelioma is a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, with emerging treatment options utilized when appropriate.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is aggressive and difficult to treat. In spite of the challenges there are still many good options for slowing the progression of the disease. Therapies can effectively manage symptoms, improve quality of life, and even extend a patient's survival time.

Treatment choices vary and include both traditional therapies like chemotherapy, as well as alternative medicine. Researchers are also testing new emerging treatments in clinical trials. With access to quality, reliable information along with an experienced medical team, patients and families can make important decisions about their individual treatment path.

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Mesothelioma is a difficult disease to manage and treat, and it usually has a poor prognosis. In spite of the challenges, treatments have improved in recent decades. Today, specialists are helping patients live longer lives in greater comfort.

Patients can get the best treatment and more varied options by visiting specialized mesothelioma treatment centers. These are found all around the country, and they provide compassionate, effective care from mesothelioma experts. They also provide access to clinical trials.

Some of the biggest advances in mesothelioma treatment include improvements in the safety and effectiveness of surgical procedures. Surgery is the leading curative strategy, and it helps to alleviate symptoms.

Researchers have also made important developments in experimental treatments, including gene therapy and immunotherapy. Many of these advances are being seen in clinical trials and have great promise for helping more patients.

Medicine and science have not yet found a cure for this rare and difficult disease. But there is hope for patients. Important progress is being made right now, Mesothelioma patients are experiencing longer, more fulfilling lives in spite of their diagnosis thanks to advances in treatments and dedicated facilities staffed by specialists and other health care professionals.

Consult a

Mesothelioma Specialist

If you or a loved one has received a diagnosis of mesothelioma, it's important to find a qualified specialist as soon as possible. Oncologists who focus on mesothelioma have studied this rare cancer and worked with patients like you. They can provide access to the latest treatments and they work with other experts on a multidisciplinary team.

Mesothelioma specialists can provide you with more treatment options than general oncologists. Most are involved in cutting-edge research for diagnosis and treatment, as well as clinical trials. They can offer some of the most innovative therapies available anywhere.

Start your search with a trusted general practitioner, but soon it will be important to work with a specialist. Your doctor can guide you and help you find just the right oncologist and specialty treatment center.

Mesothelioma

Treatment Facilities

Specialists provide the best treatment and the most options for mesothelioma patients. To get the best possible care, work with a multi-disciplinary team of experts. These typically working at cancer treatment centers and include oncologists, radiologists, diagnosticians, and other leading experts in their fields.

Mesothelioma treatment centers and departments have the staff, equipment, knowledge and experience that allows them to provide the most up-to-date options for mesothelioma patients.

Making treatment decisions is difficult when facing such a devastating and life-threatening illness. With an expert mesothelioma team guiding you, making the right choices becomes a little easier.

What are available

Treatment Options?

The development of a treatment and management plan for mesothelioma depends on several factors:

  • The type of mesothelioma
  • The cancer stage
  • Individual and personal health factors like age and overall wellness
  • A patient's preferences and goals

Ultimately, treatment decisions are in the hands of the patient, but a good medical team will provide information and guidance. One important issue is to determine how aggressive to be with treatment.

Patients need to weigh the benefits and risks of aggressive treatment. Some prefer to focus on extending their lives at any cost. Others want to be comfortable in the time they have left and choose treatments that address symptoms.

For most patients treatment is multimodal. It includes some combination of the traditional and standard treatments: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

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Surgery

Surgical treatment for mesothelioma removes as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. It is often combined chemotherapy or radiation to eliminate any tumor growth that a surgeon was unable to remove or to shrink tumors before surgery.

Patients may choose aggressive surgical procedures to attempt to cure mesothelioma, but it is more often used to extend a patient’s life. Surgery can also help improve quality of life by providing relief from symptoms.

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Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a standard and common treatment for mesothelioma. It involves administering drugs that target and damage fast-growing cells. These include cancer cells as well as some healthy cells. The drugs are usually given intravenously.

Patients often need multiple rounds of chemotherapy. This can cause a lot of uncomfortable side effects. An innovative and promising new treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma involves washing the abdominal cavity with heated chemotherapy drugs after surgery.

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Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a beam of high-energy particles that is aimed at and kills cancer cells. It is typically used as an adjunct to surgery or chemotherapy. It may be used before surgery to reduce tumor sizes or after surgery to destroy any remaining cells.

Traditionally radiation is administered from outside the body by aiming the beam at the area of tumor growth. New developments are allowing oncologists to deliver radiation internally for more targeted treatment. This can also minimize some of the side effects of traditional radiation.

Surgery

Surgical treatment for mesothelioma removes as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. It is often combined chemotherapy or radiation to eliminate any tumor growth that a surgeon was unable to remove or to shrink tumors before surgery.

Patients may choose aggressive surgical procedures to attempt to cure mesothelioma, but it is more often used to extend a patient’s life. Surgery can also help improve quality of life by providing relief from symptoms.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a standard and common treatment for mesothelioma. It involves administering drugs that target and damage fast-growing cells. These include cancer cells as well as some healthy cells. The drugs are usually given intravenously.

Patients often need multiple rounds of chemotherapy. This can cause a lot of uncomfortable side effects. An innovative and promising new treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma involves washing the abdominal cavity with heated chemotherapy drugs after surgery.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a beam of high-energy particles that is aimed at and kills cancer cells. It is typically used as an adjunct to surgery or chemotherapy. It may be used before surgery to reduce tumor sizes or after surgery to destroy any remaining cells.

Traditionally radiation is administered from outside the body by aiming the beam at the area of tumor growth. New developments are allowing oncologists to deliver radiation internally for more targeted treatment. This can also minimize some of the side effects of traditional radiation.

In general, treatment for mesothelioma involves a combination of therapies, also known as a multimodal approach. Each treatment can increase the effectiveness of the others. A combination of surgery with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or all three treatment types, is most effective.

For patients still in an early stage of mesothelioma, the treatment approach will probably be aggressive. The goals of slowing tumor growth or even achieving remission are more feasible for these patients.

For those with more advanced cancers, doctors usually recommend a palliative approach to care. Treatment at a late stage may slow the spread of tumors. However, remission is not possible, so the main goal is to provide relief for symptoms and an improved quality of life.

Palliative care does not usually include aggressive surgery. Surgery will not effectively remove most of the cancer in the late stages and many patients are not well enough for it. Some less invasive procedures may help relieve symptoms.

Many mesothelioma patients have also found hope in experimental treatments. These are novel therapies tested in clinical trials for safety and efficacy. Discuss these options with your oncologist to find out if they are appropriate for your treatment.

What's involved with

Mesothelioma Surgery?

For patients who are candidates for it, surgery is often the best chance of extending survival time. Patients with late-stage, metastatic cancer are generally not good candidates for aggressive surgery.

The surgical procedures used for mesothelioma are most successful when the cancer has not spread too much from the original tumor. These surgeries can be extensive, removing a lot of tissue. They can only be used for patients in good overall health.

Although an important part of treatment, surgery is rarely used alone. It is usually combined with radiation and chemotherapy. One or the other may be given pre-surgery to reduce tumor size. Alternatively, they can be used post-surgery to eliminate any remaining cancer cells.

Some surgical procedures are used to provide symptom relief. This is called palliative surgery, which is important for improving quality of life and overall comfort.

Procedures include:

  • Biopsy
  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)
  • Lobectomy
  • Paracentesis
  • Peritonectomy/cytoreductive
  • Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D)
  • Pleurodesis
  • Thoracentesis
  • Thoracoscopy
  • Thoracotomy
  • Wedge Resection
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Is there access to

Research and Clinical Trials?

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In addition to standard treatments, patients may be able to participate in the trials that are testing innovative therapies under study. These treatments are experimental and not yet approved. They are available to patients only through clinical trials.

Physicians and researchers run clinical trials to determine if these new treatments are effective and safe. Participation in a trial provides patients with the unique opportunity to try a treatment that may have a greater outcome than any other therapy currently approved.

Talk to your medical team before volunteering to participate in a clinical trial. The effectiveness of treatments being offered is still unproven. Experimental therapies can even be harmful, causing unexpected side effects.

There is a risk but also potential rewards. Participation in trials always helps to advance this important research. Talk to your specialist about available trials and to find out if you qualify to be a participant.

Are there available

Therapy Options?

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is an exciting line of research being tested in all types of cancer, including mesothelioma. These innovative therapies harness each patient's immune system to attack and kill cancer cells.

The body’s immune system is naturally designed to attack invading cells like viruses and bacteria. It also attacks and destroys host cells that are unhealthy or damaged. This includes cancer cells, but cancer cells have a lot of strong defenses against the immune system. Researchers are working on overcoming those defenses with novel treatments.

There are different types of immunotherapy, including active and passive approaches. Active therapies stimulate the patient's own immune system to fight back against cancer. Passive therapies involve injecting the patient with immune compounds that the patient either doesn't produce or can't make in high enough quantities.

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Gene Therapy

Gene therapy is another new area of treatment research. It takes advantage of a patient's DNA and genes to fight disease. Researchers manipulate the genome in patients to try to treat all types of cancer. It has already been used to successfully treat other conditions and shows promise for mesothelioma.

In the treatment of mesothelioma, genes that targets cancer cells and kill them are injected into the body using carefully manipulated cells. This is just one of several gene therapy strategies currently under investigation.

Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy uses light energy to target and kill cancer cells. A patient receives an infusion of drugs that kill cancer cells. They are only activated when stimulated by light.

Once the injected toxic drug has accumulated in cancer cells, the tumor is exposed to light. This activates the drug so it can start acting on and killing the cells.

Clinical trials using photodynamic therapy are already proving that this strategy can extend life expectancies in mesothelioma patients. It has been approved for use in other types of cancers. The potential for being approved for mesothelioma is high.

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Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy is an emerging treatment that uses cold temperatures to kill cancer cells. Although tested in other types of cancers, the effectiveness of cryotherapy in mesothelioma is still being reviewed in clinical trials.

Cryotherapy may be able to extend life expectancy. It also has the potential to be used as a cancer cure. Right now many patients are receiving the treatment as a type of palliative care, to relieve pain and other symptoms by shrinking tumors. This treatment is safe and low risk, which makes it a good option for many patients.

Tumor Treating Fields System

The first new mesothelioma treatment approved by the FDA in 15 years is now available to patients. Known as NovoTTF-100L, or Tumor Treating Fields System, this innovative therapy was developed by Novocure and is used in conjunction with traditional chemotherapy.

The therapy uses electrical currents and fields tuned to a specific frequency. At this frequency it can disrupt the growth of cancer cells and slow tumor growth. It is non-invasive and safe. Clinical trials of Tumor Treating Fields proved that it could significantly extend life expectancy for patients with mesothelioma that cannot be treated with surgery.

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What are options for

Alternative Treatments?

In addition to traditional medical care, mesothelioma patients often turn to complementary and alternative medicine and therapies. Yoga, massage therapy, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and other therapies can provide a lot of important benefits for patients with mesothelioma.

Alternative therapies are useful for relieving cancer symptoms and uncomfortable side effects of treatments, like chemotherapy. Many patients report relief from pain, nausea, vomiting, stress, anxiety, and other symptoms.

If you are interested in trying these kinds of therapies, it is important to remember that they are meant to be used concurrently with standard cancer treatments. They are not replacements for traditional medical treatment and cannot cure cancer.

Mesothelioma specialists often encourage patients to seek alternative treatments along with chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. You may even find that alternative practitioners are part of your mesothelioma treatment team in a cancer center.

With your medical team's guidance, try alternative treatments that interest you and that you feel provide a benefit. There are many options including nutritional healing, homeopathy, herbal and traditional Chinese medicines, energy therapies, massage therapy, and body and mind-based therapies like acupuncture and acupressure, yoga, and meditation.

What are my options

Paying For Mesothelioma Treatment?

Treating any kind of cancer is expensive, but for a rare cancer like mesothelioma, costs rise quickly. Surgery can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. Chemotherapy takes several weeks and multiple cycles to administer. A full course may cost $30,000 or more.

Radiation therapy is less expensive but still averages $2,000 per month. Alternative therapies may cost much less but are additional costs because they are not designed to replace any standard treatments.

Patients with limited or no health insurance may find themselves facing stressful decisions about treatment and costs. There are also additional financial burdens: traveling for treatment, providing for children, and lost wages if going back to work is not possible.

Some patients may actually go into debt trying to fund treatment, but this is not always the best option. Debt can leave you in a big financial hole that is impossible to climb out of later, for you or your surviving family.

If you need help paying for treatment and other expenses, contact charitable and government organizations that offer assistance.

Specialty treatment centers for mesothelioma and cancer often have a aid for those who cannot afford to travel for their care. Veterans of the U.S. military may be eligible for special benefits, and some clinical trials and grants may also be available.

Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by
Luis Argote-Greene, MD

Luis Marcelo Argote-Greene, MD
Luis Argote-Greene is an internationally recognized thoracic surgeon. He has trained and worked with some of the most prominently known thoracic surgeons in the United States and Mexico, including pioneering mesothelioma surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker. He is professionally affiliated with University Hospitals (UH). His areas of interest and expertise are mesothelioma, mediastinal tumors, thoracic malignancies, lung cancer, lung transplantation, esophageal cancer, experimental surgery, and lung volume reduction. Dr. Argote-Greene has also done pioneering work with video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), as well as robotic assisted minimally invasive surgery. He has taught the procedures to other surgeons both nationally and internationally.
Sources
  1. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Mesothelioma - Diagnosis and Treatment.
    Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mesothelioma/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20375028
  2. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. (2018, July 30). Malignant Mesothelioma Treatment (PDQ) - Patient Version.
    Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.gov/types/mesothelioma/patient/mesothelioma-treatment-pdq#section/_130
  3. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Rare Disease Database. (n.d.). Mesothelioma.
    Retrieved from: https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/mesothelioma/
  4. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Treatment Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma.
    Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/clinical-trials/disease/mesothelioma/treatment?pn=1

Where can I

Learn about the latest treatments?

For over 20 years, we’ve provided the best FREE resources to mesothelioma patients and loved ones. Our resources include information on the leading treatment options and best doctors in your area, lessons learned from survivors, claims and benefits specifically for Veterans, and how to access your share of billions of dollars in trust fund money.

Learn about the latest treatments with our FREE resources.

resources-shot_optimized
  • New treatment options
  • Learn from survivors
  • Veterans benefits & claims
  • File for your share of $30 billion in trust funds

– Or Call –
1-800-692-8608

Where can I

Learn about the latest treatments?

For over 20 years, we’ve provided the best FREE resources to mesothelioma patients and loved ones. Our resources include information on the leading treatment options and best doctors in your area, lessons learned from survivors, claims and benefits specifically for Veterans, and how to access your share of billions of dollars in trust fund money.

Learn about the latest treatments with our FREE resources.

resources-shot_optimized
  • New treatment options
  • Learn from survivors
  • Veterans benefits & claims
  • File for your share of $30 billion in trust funds

– Or Call –
1-800-692-8608

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