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Surgery Remains “Cornerstone” of Mesothelioma Treatment

2214038_patient5A major new study of more than 14,000 mesothelioma patients diagnosed between 1973 and 2009 finds that surgery appears to have a greater impact on survival than any other form of mesothelioma treatment.

Researchers with Mount Sinai Medical Center, North Shore/Long Island Jewish Health System, and Hofstra School of Medicine in New York analyzed data from SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results), a large national database of cancer patients. Only patients with confirmed malignant pleural mesothelioma were included in the study.

The researchers divided 14,228 mesothelioma cases by age, sex race, diagnosis year, stage, cancer-directed surgery, radiation and other factors to determine which ones appear to have the most influence on mesothelioma survival.

When compared to having no treatment, cancer-directed surgery alone, which is surgery aimed at removing or reducing the size of a tumor, was associated with longer survival, independent of other prognostic factors. Radiation, either alone or in combination with surgery, did not appear to significantly affect survival. Chemotherapy data was not available for evaluation.

“These data support the role of surgery-based therapy as the cornerstone of treatment for this challenging disease,” writes board certified thoracic surgeon Andrea Wolf, MD, MPH, of Mount Sinai Medical Center.

But the study also contained some discouraging news about mesothelioma. Although surgical techniques, radiotherapy and chemotherapy have advanced over the last several decades, the researchers found that the prognosis for mesothelioma patients has changed little during that time. The majority of mesothelioma patients still do not survive beyond a year to 18 months after diagnosis.

The mesothelioma findings were presented during the annual meeting of the American Radium Society in March and published in the journal Oncology.


Wolf, A et al, “Surgery Improves Survival in 14,228 Patients with Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma”, April 30, 2015, Oncology, ARS Annual Meeting

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