A new article published by a pair of UK scientists predicts a brighter future for mesothelioma patients thanks to a growing understanding of the disease and how to treat it.
Malignant mesothelioma is the cancer most closely associated with asbestos. Although only a small percentage of asbestos-exposed people go on to develop mesothelioma, those who do face a grim prognosis. Doctors learned early on that standard cancer treatments rarely work for patients with mesothelioma.
But Anna Bibby and Nick Maskell with Bristol Medical School and the North Bristol Lung Centre say the large amount of high-quality mesothelioma research conducted in the last decade has moved medicine closer to finding a cure for this intractable cancer.
Important Mesothelioma Research Findings
In an effort to track the evolution of mesothelioma research, Drs. Bibby and Maskell searched the MEDLINE database from 1946 to the present. They identified 35 clinical trials that have significantly improved the understanding of malignant mesothelioma and how best to manage it.
“Since the original trial that demonstrated the efficacy of pemetrexed and cisplatin in mesothelioma, multiple trials have been conducted that have further informed management options,” states the report in The Clinical Respiratory Journal.
According to Bibby and Maskell, the following are among the most important findings from mesothelioma studies in recent years:
- Agents that block mesothelioma tumors from forming new blood vessels to feed their growth, such as Avastin (bevacizumab) and Opdivo (nivolumab), appear to be promising add-ons to first-line mesothelioma chemotherapy.
- Immunotherapy agents that target the protein mesothelin or other molecular targets “are potential areas for development” with ongoing trials that are likely to “deliver interesting results” in the next few years.
- The risks of radical mesothelioma surgery appear to outweigh the benefits for most mesothelioma patients, however ongoing research into lung-sparing extended pleurectomy/decortication (PD) may show a greater role for that procedure going forward.
- Radiotherapy is effective as a way to control mesothelioma pain, but it is not a viable way to prevent procedure tract metastases — new mesothelioma tumors along the tracts where medical tools are inserted.
Hope for New Mesothelioma Treatments
For the 2,500+ new mesothelioma patients identified in the US each year, the diagnosis can seem like a death sentence.
But, as survivors like Australian Paul Kraus prove, it does not have to be. Kraus employed a combination of conventional and alternative treatments with radical lifestyle changes to become the longest documented mesothelioma survivor in the world.
Based on their review of published and ongoing mesothelioma clinical trials, the authors of the new article predict that “several new therapies are likely to become available in clinical practice in the near future.”
“With multiple trials ongoing,” they write, “the horizon for patients with mesothelioma looks brighter than ever before.”
Bibby, AC * Maskell, NA, “Current treatments and trials in malignant pleural mesothelioma”, July 2018, The Clinical Respiratory Journal