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Mesothelioma Clinical Trials: Study Highlights Challenges for Patients

mesothelioma clinical trials

A new UK study points to some of the potential challenges and benefits for patients involved in mesothelioma clinical trials. 

Researchers at three teaching hospitals in England interviewed mesothelioma patients who took part in the Mesothelioma and Radical Surgery (MARS 2) trial

The trial compared outcomes in people who had a combination of surgery and chemotherapy with those who only had chemotherapy. The findings show that not all aspects of mesothelioma clinical trials are positive for patients. 

A Study Within a Study

Pleural mesothelioma is a fast-growing cancer that starts on the lining around the lungs. Asbestos exposure is usually the cause. With standard cancer treatments, most mesothelioma patients face a poor prognosis. Mesothelioma often leads to death within a year of diagnosis. 

Mesothelioma clinical trials offer a way for researchers to test promising new mesothelioma treatments and procedures in human patients. 

The aim of the MARS 2 trial was to determine whether adding surgery to chemotherapy treatment extended mesothelioma survival

Researchers took the opportunity to conduct a separate study of patient experiences. The goal of that study was to understand the advantages and challenges of mesothelioma clinical trials from the patient’s perspective.  

Asking About Mesothelioma Clinical Trials

Researchers conducted a series of interviews with 15 random patients from the MARS 2 trial. The interviews happened right away, right after surgery, and at 6 and 12 months after treatment. The team conducted a total of 41 interviews.

The interviews shed light on what patients found enticing and challenging about mesothelioma clinical trials.

Several factors influenced their participation. Participants liked having the opportunity to undergo mesothelioma surgery. But they had to complete a self-assessment showing they could cope with treatments. They also had to have a positive attitude and a desire to help. 

Having to travel to an unfamiliar hospital for mesothelioma clinical trials was a challenge for some patients. It meant more doctors and more confusion. Some patients were not sure about what would happen to them after the trial was over.

“Patients perceived and derived benefits from taking part in the trial but experienced some negative consequences,” writes Dr. Clare Warnock of Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield, England. 

Warnock says the study identified a “need for healthcare staff to be alert to the potential for misunderstanding, particularly when presenting treatment options.”

Despite the challenges, mesothelioma clinical trials are crucial to finding new treatments for this rare cancer. They are also one of the best ways for patients to get early access to cutting edge therapies.

You can find out more about open clinical trials on the US government’s clinical trials website. 


Warnock, C, et al, “Patient experiences of participation in a radical thoracic surgical trial: findings from the Mesothelioma and Radical Surgery Trial 2 (MARS 2)”, October 18, 2019, Trials, https://trialsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13063-019-3692-x

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