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Chemoperfusion Treatment for Mesothelioma: Chemo Without the Side Effects?

Chemoperfusion Treatment for Mesothelioma

New research suggests that chemoperfusion treatment for mesothelioma may buy patients more time without the side effects of traditional chemotherapy. 

Chemoperfusion treatment involves injecting cancer-killing drugs directly into the vessels that feed a pleural mesothelioma tumor. 

The research was presented during a virtual session of the Society of Interventional Radiology’s annual meeting. Researchers showed how this novel approach could improve quality of life for mesothelioma patients. 

Limitations of Chemotherapy

Pleural mesothelioma is a rare cancer with few treatment options. Most mesothelioma patients start with chemotherapy. Alimta (pemetrexed) is the primary chemotherapy drug for mesothelioma. 

But chemotherapy has drawbacks that chemoperfusion treatment for mesothelioma might avoid. 

Conventional chemotherapy circulates drugs throughout the body. That means that normal cells can absorb them the same as cancer cells. This can cause serious side effects. Often, the treatment either does not work or has to stop because it makes the patient too sick.

Mesothelioma surgery is another option. But it carries many risks and only a small percentage of patients are good candidates. 

Potential Benefits of Chemoperfusion Treatment for Mesothelioma

The study comes from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. Researchers ran a three-year study on transarterial chemoperfusion treatment for mesothelioma. 

Twenty-seven patients enrolled between 2016 and 2019. All had tumors that kept growing in spite of standard chemotherapy. Four patients also had radiotherapy and three underwent surgery. 

Patients received a mix of cisplatin, methotrexate and gemcitabine. Doctors injected the mix directly into one or both of the arteries that supply the pleural membrane. They repeated the treatment every four weeks. 

“We were pleasantly surprised to find that this treatment doesn’t come with the same side effects of traditional intravenous chemotherapy,” said Bela Kis, MD, PhD. Dr. Kis is the principal investigator on the study and an interventional radiologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center.

“To see these promising results with so few side effects means we are able to make a positive impact on quality of life for these patients,” he says.

The disease control rate with chemoperfusion treatment for mesothelioma was 70 percent. One patient had a partial response and 18 had stable disease. No one died from the treatment. The median overall survival rate was 8.5 months from the start of the treatment. 

The researchers hope to expand their study to other cancer centers with larger groups of mesothelioma patients. It is challenging to study new treatments for mesothelioma because the disease is so rare. Only about 2,500 Americans receive a mesothelioma diagnosis each year. 


“Transarterial Chemoperfusion Treatment of Unresectable Pleural Mesothelioma – Interim Results of a Phase 2 Prospective Study”, Presentation during Society of Interventional Radiology annual conference, https://www.sirmeeting.org/index.cfm?do=abs.viewAbs&abs=543

“Novel treatment for mesothelioma shows promise for patients”, June 14, 2020, Society of Interventional Radiology news release, https://www.sirweb.org/advocacy-and-outreach/media/news-release-archive/sir-2020-mesothelioma-061520/

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