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Mesothelioma Study Finds Tumors Unlikely to Grow on Pleural Catheters

2214038_patient5There is some reassuring news for mesothelioma patients with a common side effect known as pleural effusion: The plastic catheters that are often used to treat it are unlikely to host new tumors.

Pleural effusion is a buildup of fluid around the lungs that can occur in several types of cancer, including pleural mesothelioma. As the amount of fluid increases, there is less space for the lungs to expand and mesothelioma patients may experience shortness of breath, fatigue and coughing.

There has been some concern that new tumors might be able to grow along the catheter tubes put in place to drain mesothelioma-related pleural effusion, but a new Australian study indicates that that is unlikely.

Indwelling Pleural Catheters for Mesothelioma

There are a number of ways to treat effusions in malignant pleural mesothelioma. Pleurodesis uses talc or another chemical to close up the space between the pleural layers, leaving no room for fluid collection.

Another method for pleural effusions treatment is thoracentesis, a process by which the excess lung fluid is drawn off with a needle.

Indwelling pleural catheters (IPCs) are drainage devices that stay in place to provide ongoing relief from the discomfort of pleural effusion in mesothelioma.

Testing the Safety of IPCs

IPCs are effective for pleural drainage, but are they really safe for people with growing mesothelioma tumors?

To find out, doctors at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, the University of Western Australia, and Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre in Perth studied IPCs that had been removed from cancer patients over a 54-month period.

The IPCs were being used as part of treatment for mesothelioma or another cancer and had been in place in patients for a median of about four months.

No Evidence of New Mesothelioma Tumors

After carefully examining the IPCs both visually and under the microscope, and testing cells taken from their surface, the researchers found no new tumors growing on them.

“There was no evidence of direct tumour invasion or cancer cell growth on the catheter surfaces in any of the 29 IPCs that were histologically examined,” writes author and then pleural fellow Claire Tobin, BA, BMBCh, MRCP in the journal Respirology.

Although previous studies have found a tendency for new tumors to “seed” along the tracks where IPCs are inserted, these tumors typically respond to treatment. Tobin and her colleagues conclude, “Our study provides reassuring evidence that the IPC material does not support direct tumour growth or invasion even in the setting of high mesothelioma prevalence.”


Tobin, CL, et al, “HIstopathology of removed indwelling pleural catheters from patients with malignant pleural diseases”, March 10, 2016, Respirology,

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