One of the reasons for this is that very little of an injected chemotherapy drug actually makes it into the mesothelioma tumor where it can begin to destroy mesothelioma cells.
But in an encouraging new report, doctors in Boston say they may have found a way around this limitation to make mesothelioma chemotherapy much more effective for patients.
The Limits of Chemotherapy
Even though most mesothelioma patients will undergo chemotherapy during the course of their treatment, evidence suggests that it is unlikely to extend mesothelioma survival by more than about four months.
Mesothelioma tumors, like some other cancers, produce substances that help protect them against the damaging effects of chemotherapy.
Clinicians cannot just keep upping the dose because of the risk of damging healthy cells and causing life-threatening side-effects.
A Two-Step Approach
But Doctors at Boston University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital say they have had much better results delivering chemotherapy drugs into mesothelioma tumors with a two-step approach.
The first step involves the administration of highly advanced nanoparticles that are carefully designed to concentrate in the mesothelioma tumor.
With these nanoparticles in place, doctors administer chemotherapy drugs which are attracted to the nanoparticles. The method has proven successful on mesothelioma cells in the lab and in live mice.
More Successful Mesothelioma Chemotherapy?
By offering a way to attract more of the mesothelioma-fighting drugs into mesothelioma tumors, the two-step approach has the potential to dramatically improve chemotherapy and extend mesothelioma survival.
“This two-step method results in a greater than 5-fold increase in intratumoral drug concentrations compared to conventional ‘drug-alone’ administration,” writes study author Aaron Colby, PhD, of the Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry Departments at Boston University.
If it can be verified in human trials, the new drug delivery method could not only help people with pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma, but could also improve chemotherapy for patients with ovarian and pancreatic cancers, both of which are highly chemoresistant.
Colby, Aaron, “Two-Step Delivery: Exploiting the Partition Coefficient Concept to Increase Intratumoral Paclitaxel Concentrations in vivo Using Responsive Nanoparticles”, January 7, 2016, Scientific Reports