A research study published in the Journal of Medical Case Reports (JMCR) evaluated a man who was exposed to asbestos as an adult for around five years before being diagnosed with the disease at just 61 years old. The patient, who was admitted to the hospital with chest pain, was quickly diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). The patient, who refused any invasive therapies including surgery and radiotherapy, was treated with hyperthermia and systemic chemotherapy with agents such as cisplatin and irinotecan. He underwent three hyperthermia sessions and a single course of chemotherapy without any severe complications.
Just one month after treatment, a follow-up computed tomography scan showed no definitive abnormality in the thoracic space. The patient survived without any evidence of disease for more than seven years. This is not uncommon, as the ACS says people now being diagnosed with MPM may have a better outlook than current numbers show.
How is Mesothelioma Treated?
Mesothelioma is typically treated with a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. However, researchers such as Dr. Prasad Adusumilli, a thoracic surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), believe the innovative “CAR T-cell therapy” will be part of future, standard-of-care treatment for mesothelioma. And just months ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the portable NovoTTF-100L System in combination with pemetrexed plus platinum-based chemotherapy as a first-line treatment of unresectable, locally advanced or metastatic MPM. NovoTTF-100L is the first FDA approved mesothelioma treatment in 15 years.
Other newer forms of treatment being used or in varying stages of testing include:
- Alternating Electric Fields (tumor treating fields)
Electrodes attached to the skin, now with the assistance of the newly approved NovoTTF-100L System, generate mild electric currents that are thought to affect tumor cells more than normal cells. Side effects are minor.
- Gene Therapy
Gene therapy attempts to add new genes to cancer cells to make them easier to kill.
Immunotherapy drugs help the body’s immune system attack cancer cells.
- Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
A light-activated drug causes a chemical change that "turns on" the drug so it kills the cancer cells.
- Targeted Therapy
Targeted therapy drugs target the changes that make cancer cells different from normal, healthy cells, and they sometimes work when chemo drugs don’t.
- Vaccine Therapy
Cancer vaccines are aimed at getting the immune system to attack the cancer
Mesothelioma is easiest to treat and has the best outcomes when it’s found early, so a number of diagnostic tools are in varying stages of development too. Some of the most promising include MESOMARK, the world’s first serum-based biomarker sensitive for mesothelioma, Human MPF Elisa Kit, SOMAmer, and Fibulin-3 Test.
There is no cure for mesothelioma just yet. However, data from the ACS, a growing number of survivor stories, and the development of innovative treatments and diagnostic tools are giving hope to the newly diagnosed.
Keown, Alex. “Novocure Wins FDA Approval for First Mesothelioma Treatment in 15 Years.” BioSpace.com. BioSpace.com, 24 May 2019. Web. 10 Jul. 2019.
“Key Statistics About Malignant Mesothelioma.” Cancer.org. American Cancer Society, Inc., 2019. Web. 10 Jul. 2019.
Okonogi, Noriyuki, Takeshi Ebara and Hitoshi Ishikawa. “A seven-year disease-free survivor of malignant pleural mesothelioma treated with hyperthermia and chemotherapy: a case report.” Journal of Medical Case Reports (JMCR). Springer Nature, BioMed Central Ltd., 28 Dec. 2012. Web. 10 Jul. 2019.
The Prasad Adusumilli Lab. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). 2019. Web. 10 Jul. 2019.
“What’s New in Malignant Mesothelioma Research?” Cancer.org. American Cancer Society, Inc., 2019. Web. 10 Jul. 2019.