Study Finds Chemotherapy Maximizes Odds of Mesothelioma Survival

919316_chemo drugA large US study of mesothelioma patients confirms what other studies have suggested: Mesothelioma patients who have chemotherapy live longer than those who don’t, and multimodal therapy is the best way to improve overall mesothelioma survival.

The study utilized data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database and included 1,625 Medicare patients with a diagnosis or either peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Treatment Patterns

Led by researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit, the study tracked mesothelioma treatment and survival data between January 2005 and December 2009 with follow-up through 2010.

The study included analysis of both the patient characteristics (like age, gender, and asbestos exposure) and the unique characteristics of their mesothelioma tumor (size, shape, subtype).

Changes were tracked over the course of various types of mesothelioma treatments in an effort to determine which characteristics, treatment patterns and chemotherapy regimens yielded the best mesothelioma survival.

Tracking Treatment Results

Of the 1,625 mesothelioma patients who were eligible for inclusion in the study, the median age at diagnosis was 78. Thirty percent of patients had mesothelioma surgery as part of their treatment strategy and 45 percent had chemotherapy.

The chemotherapy regimen prescribed most often nationwide for mesothelioma treatment was a combination of pemetrexed (Alimta) and cisplatin or carboplatin. Sixty-seven percent of the mesothelioma patients who received chemotherapy had this combination. The same combination or a drug call gemcitabine was most often used for second-line chemotherapy treatment.

Overall mesothelioma survival among the study subjects was a median of 7 months for those who received chemotherapy with those who received second-line chemotherapy living for a median of a year.

Chemotherapy Impacts Survival More Than Surgery

While the survival odds for mesothelioma remain grim, the research team concluded that chemotherapy still offered the best chance at a longer life. Their data suggests that it matters even more than surgery.

“Irrespective of surgical resection, mesothelioma patients receiving some form of chemotherapy survived longer than patients who did not, with an additional survival benefit among those patients receiving multimodal treatment,” writes Jennifer Lynn Beebe-Dimmer of Wayne State University Medical School.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology last year and appears in a recent issue of Clinical Epidemiology.


Beebe-DImmer, JL, et al, “Mesothelioma in the United States: a Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare Investigation of treatment patterns and overall survival”, October 26, 2016, Clinical Epidemiology, eCollection

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