People who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma know that they have a serious form of cancer that is often fatal. But in recent times, there have been breakthroughs in mesothelioma, advanced that are improving survival rates, and are also helping patients to have a better quality of life.
This article describes some of the breakthroughs in treatment that are occurring with mesothelioma today. If you have questions after reading this blog about your legal options and how to pay for your treatment plan, talk to a qualified mesothelioma attorney at no cost.
In the 1980s, medical professionals did not know a lot about mesothelioma – a serious cancer of the lung and other organ lining that is caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. There was little government funding for mesothelioma research. Treatment options were largely limited to ineffective chemotherapy drugs and invasive surgery with poor five year mortality rates.
Today, times have changed for the better. Patients who want treatment for mesothelioma from asbestos exposure now have access to some of the best cancer treatment centers in the world. Several leading medical centers have cancer treatment programs geared specifically for asbestos-related cancers. Clinical trials are available that cancer patients can participate in that can lead to better long term survival rates.
Below is a closer look at some of the latest developments in mesothelioma research and treatments.
Biological therapy is treatment with a variety of natural substances. This type of therapy bypasses some of the worst aspects of traditional chemotherapy. Results are achieved by improving the immune system response to cancer by boosting some of the substances that the body creates naturally to fight illness and disease. Among them are:
These biological therapies do not cause hair loss, as chemotherapy often does. But be aware that some patients do have flu-like symptoms and/or allergic reactions to biological therapies. Researchers continue to look for innovative ways to avoid some of the negative body responses to biological drugs.
Cancer researchers have recently been combining Cediranib with current chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and pemetrexed. Used together, researchers think that the drugs can destroy cancer cells in a more effective fashion and prevent their spread around the body. Cediranib works as it blocks enzymes that mesothelioma cells need to get bigger and spread to other body systems. This drug may also reduce blood flow to tumors and even make them shrink. There are other drugs being developed that can prevent tumors from growing blood vessels. This is known as anti-angiogenesis.
This is known as PDT. It uses a light activated drug to fight the deadly cancer. Medical professionals inject this drug into the bloodstream. It spreads the medicine all through your body. As it spreads, it is absorbed by cancer cells in greater number than healthy cells. As doctors shine a laser on the key parts of the body, it causes a chemical reaction that kills cancer cells and largely leaves other cells unaffected. Some clinical trials have tested PDT in cancer surgery, where doctors deliver the drug prior to surgery and then ‘turn it on’ during the operation.
Doctors can modify the genes of the patient to either treat or prevent cancer. It may be possible to repair or replace genes that are mutated that were damaged due to asbestos fibers. It might even be possible to alter the genetic code of the cancer cells to make them easier to destroy.
Future Treatments, Advances and Technology
Cancer researchers are developing new tools to diagnose mesothelioma sooner. One of the big issues with this cancer is that many patients have no idea they have it until it is in stage 3 or 4 and has spread to other parts of the body. Survival is more likely if the doctor can catch the cancer in an early stage and start treatment before the cancer journeys to other body systems.
Another problem is that deadly mesothelioma is often mistaken for other cancers. Giving the wrong cancer treatment to a mesothelioma patient can cause the patient to die much sooner. For example, a company offers what is called the Rosetta Mesothelioma Test that will measure microRNA in the body’s tumors to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis. As these tests get better, it will be easier for medical professionals to diagnose mesothelioma earlier and with higher accuracy.
This is a type of radiation therapy known as intensity modulated radiation therapy. This new tool allows medical professionals to deliver a much higher radiation dose with a greater level of accuracy; this can reduce the collateral damage to healthy tissues that causes many complications.
A study that was done by the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston concluded that IMRT is both feasible and promising. None of the cancer patients treated with it had the cancer come back locally after nine months. But the cancer still spread to other areas of the body. Some experts believe combining IRMT and chemo could improve outcomes.
The first robot-assisted surgery was done on a mesothelioma case in 2013. With the help of robotics, the doctor did what is called an extrapleural pneumonectomy, which is where the diseased lung, heart lining and diaphragm is taken out. Some of the benefits of robotic surgery are:
- Faster recovery time
- Less bleeding and pain
- Much smaller scars
- Lower infection risk
- Shorter stay in the hospital
New Therapies for Mesothelioma in Clinical Trials
Many future treatments may actually be available now in current clinical trials. These medical studies are always looking for cancer patient volunteers so healthcare professionals can determine new possible therapies. A clinical trial can help cancer researchers learn:
- How well the treatment works in a small number of patients
- How safe the new drug or treatment is
- Which treatments and drugs increase long term survival
Some of the promising clinical trial drugs include:
This clinical trial compares placebo to defactinib or VS-6063 to determine how it affects mesothelioma survivability and quality of life. This is a biological treatment that can block signals that tumor cells need to get bigger and multiply. Volunteers need to have done at least four rounds of chemo without the cancer advancing to qualify for this treatment.
This is a clinical trial that is helping researchers to learn if the Wilms-Tumor 1 vaccine can prevent or delay mesothelioma after surgery or another kind of treatment. This vaccine is combined with montanide and GM CSF, which boost the immune system and fight cancer. Volunteers need to have had surgery and treatment with chemotherapy or radiation to qualify.
This clinical trial is studying how effective the SS1P experimental drug is; it was designed to attack cancer cells and leave healthy cells alone. Researchers are combining SS1P and two drugs that damage the immune system to make the drug work more effectively. Volunteers need to have had at least one regimen of chemo, and have biphasic or epithelial cancer.
Need Help To Pay for Treatment?
Mesothelioma is always caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. It is usually due to exposure to the deadly substance in the workplace. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important to understand your legal options. You are entitled to compensation for your medical bills and pain and suffering. Please contact a mesothelioma experts today for more information and a complimentary consultation.