Though researchers have yet to find a cure for mesothelioma, treatment options have come a long way. This means more and more patients are living longer, more productive lives after diagnosis. In fact, researchers now say a daily drug for a form of cancer called chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) can boost survival, eliminate the need for chemotherapy, and decrease many of the debilitating side effects that come with treatment. According to a 2017 NBC News Report, “the once-a-day pill turned chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, from a certain death sentence into a manageable disease. Now data shows it’s helped 83 percent of patients live 10 years or longer, even with side effects that include a characteristic rash, nausea and fatigue.”
The drug, Gleevec (imatinib), worked “so well and so quickly,” says NBC, “that the trial testing the drug against the older chemo regimen was stopped so everyone could get the pill.” FDA approval was immediate and “now the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society estimates 36,000 to 100,000 Americans are CML survivors.” Some CML patients respond so well that, after a while, they stop taking the drug altogether.
So what does all of this mean for mesothelioma patients? In separate studies, research showed that imatinib effectively blocked tumor growth in lung cancer cases and that the drug boosts the therapeutic response to gemcitabine in combination treatment for malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma and pleural mesothelioma are often treated with similar protocols.
The CML study, Long-Term Outcomes of Imatinib Treatment for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and funded by Novartis, the maker of Gleevec.
Fox, Maggie. "Cancer Pill Gleevec Keeps Patients Alive and Well for a Decade." NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 09 Mar. 2017. Web. 14 July 2017.
Hochhaus, Andreas, Richard A. Larson, and Francois Guilhot. "Long-Term Outcomes of Imatinib Treatment for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia." New England Journal of Medicine. New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), 2017. Web. 14 July 2017.
"Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma." American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 2017. Web. 14 July 2017.
"What is Malignant Mesothelioma?" American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 2017. Web. 14 July 2017.