Though a cure for mesothelioma does not currently exist, many patients elect to undergo treatment to combat the cancer. Patients may also wish to participate in clinical trials conducted to test up-and-coming treatments and medications before they are released and recommended for public use. Clinical trials are extremely important in the search for a mesothelioma cure. Knowledge gained from study results greatly help medical professionals come closer to the discovery of a cure for mesothelioma.
5-Year Survival Rates for Mesothelioma
Certain doctors such as Dr. David Sugarbaker have actively pursued better treatment options for mesothelioma patients and have been instrumental in the quest for a cure. Utilizing a multi-modal approach, Dr. Sugarbaker has made great strides in mesothelioma treatment and has increased survival rates for mesothelioma patients.
Learning that a cure does not exist can be discouraging to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones, but stories of survivors continue to surface, instilling hope in those affected by the cancer.
Surgical treatments for mesothelioma include three main types - diagnostic surgery, curative surgery, and palliative surgery. Some types of surgery fall into more than one category.
Surgery can only be performed during mesothelioma stages I and II.
For example, thoracentesis may be used as a diagnostic procedure, and as a palliative treatment to provide symptomatic relief. Only curative surgery can potentially remove all cancer from a patient with mesothelioma.
However, for curative surgery to be effective, it is particularly important that mesothelioma be diagnosed as early as possible. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is not usually diagnosed until it reaches Stage III or IV, when surgery is not an option.
Most forms of chemotherapy involve the intravenous administration of drugs such as Alimta and Cisplatin. Chemotherapeutic drugs are targeted to kill cells that are rapidly dividing by interfering with processes that occur during cell division.
Chemotherapy is an effective treatment option but comes with unpleasant side effects.
However, while cancer cells themselves divide rapidly, so do some types of healthy cells, causing some of the unpleasant side effects that are often associated with this form of treatment. Though older chemotherapy medications seemed to do little to fight mesothelioma, newer chemotherapy drugs are showing much promise.
A relatively new form of chemotherapy called heated chemotherapy is an option for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma.
This treatment is carried out following surgery, and involves the perfusion of heated chemotherapeutic medications into the peritoneum.
Radiation therapy, or "ionizing radiation", is used to kill cancer cells and to limit the spread of cancer. For patients with mesothelioma, radiation therapy is most often used in conjunction with surgery.
Radiation is often used in conjunction with surgery.
However, in some cases radiation may be used as a stand-alone treatment to relieve pain and other symptoms associated with mesothelioma. In either case, it is rare for radiation therapy to provide more than short-term symptomatic relief.
Mesothelioma patients may receive one of two types of radiation therapies, depending on whether or not they are suitable candidates for either procedure.
External beam radiation therapy is the traditional type of radiation therapy, where tumors are bombarded with beams of radiation to kill cancer cells. Brachytherapy is a newer type of radiation treatment. It involves tiny radioactive rods which are implanted within a tumor to provide a strong, concentrated dose of radiation to tumors while doing very little damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
Photodynamic therapy is a highly specialized and specific form of treatment that is most often used to treat skin cancers, some types of lung cancer, and pleural mesothelioma.
Photodynamic therapy uses light energy to kill cancer cells.
However, this treatment is usually unsuitable for patients with metastasized cancer; it is most effective in patients who have localized disease.
This type of therapy involves the use of light energy to kill cancer cells. In photodynamic therapy treatment, the patient is given an intravenous solution of a medication that makes cancer cells highly sensitive to a particular kind of light.
One to three days after this treatment, the patient is exposed to the light, and cancer cells that have absorbed the medication are killed.
Gene therapy involves using genetic material to specifically target cancer cells and make them more vulnerable to chemotherapy treatment.
"Suicide Gene Therapy" is the most popular form of gene therapy being used.
The main type of gene therapy being developed for use in mesothelioma patients is called "suicide gene therapy," because it forces cancer cells to produce substances that cause their death.
When undergoing this type of gene therapy, the patient is treated with a non-infectious virus that has been altered with genetic material that makes them produce a particular protein.
Following this procedure, the patient is then treated with a chemotherapeutic medication that is specially formulated to be toxic only to cancer cells. This type of therapy has produced some promising results for mesothelioma patients, but it is still only available through clinical trials.
Immunotherapy is a type of treatment in which the patient's own immune system is 'tricked' into killing cancer cells. A healthy, normally-functioning immune system does not kill cancer cells, because even though these are diseased cells, the immune system is unable to recognize them as being harmful.
There are two main types of immunotherapy: active and passive. In active immunotherapy, mesothelioma cancer cells are removed from a patient and then treated in a laboratory to turn them into a vaccine. Following this laboratory treatment, the patient is injected with the vaccine and if the treatment is successful, the patient's immune system recognizes the vaccine as a harmful substance, thus recognizing the cancer as being harmful as well.
Passive immunotherapy is somewhat different in that it does not attempt to activate the patient's immune system. Instead, it uses substances such as cytokines (molecules that direct and regulate the immune system) and other agents to help boost the patient's immune response to their cancer.
Additional Treatment Resources
We provide extensive resources to educate and benefit those affected by asbestos exposure. One of our main goals is to provide help and assistance to those coping with asbestos-related disease, and we offer a complimentary comprehensive packet that can be mailed directly to you overnight. The packet allows you to take our Web site and additional educational information with you to share with your family wherever you go.
To learn more about the range of treatment options available to mesothelioma patients, please fill out this form to receive your packet. Our Patient and Family Advocates are also happy to answer any questions or address concerns you may have over the phone.