NO COMPLETELY EFFECTIVE TREATMENTS
No currently available mesothelioma treatment permanently halts tumor growth or brings about a complete remission of the disease. The goal of mesothelioma treatment is to slow the progress of the disease, and to help the patient be as comfortable as possible while maintaining the best possible quality of life. This kind of treatment is called palliative care.
Clinical trials, research studies on the effects of new drugs, surgical interventions, and new treatment approaches offer a more aggressive approach to treating mesothelioma. Clinical trials test how well mesothelioma treatments that have shown promise in the laboratory and in animal studies might work in people. Each study answers specific questions and tries to find better ways to prevent, screen for, diagnose, or treat the disease.
People who take part clinical trials for mesothelioma understand that there are no guarantees that the treatment being tested will be effective, or an improvement over standard therapies. They enter trials because the treatment holds some promise, and offers an opportunity to contribute to knowledge of, and progress against their disease. They also receive state of the art care from experts. More about clinical trials can be found at Clinical Trials.
CURRENT MESOTHELIOMA TREATMENTS
Multimodality treatments, surgery followed by chemotherapy using two or more medications, and sometimes radiation, and have shown the greatest effectiveness in reducing tumor growth and reducing the painful symptoms of mesothelioma.
Decisions about which combination of treatments to pursue are based on the stage of the person's disease. Mesothelioma patients whose illness has been diagnosed at Stage I or II are likely to be offered surgery, followed by a course of multi-agent chemotherapy, in which each chemical agent is targeting a different function within the tumor."
The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumor where that is possible, or if it is not, to debulk, or reduce the size of the tumor. Debulking reduces the tumor's pressure on other organs, and increases the patient's comfort. Reducing the tumor's size also exposes more of its remaining mass to chemotherapy and radiation, increasing the potential effectiveness of these treatments.
Although surgery offers the greatest possibility of slowing the progress of mesothelioma, it is a major procedure, and carries significant risks. Possible side effects for pulmonary surgery include hemorrhage, pulmonary embolism, lung infection, empyema, bronchopleural fistula, heart arrhythmias, chest pain, collapsed lung or air in the chest cavity, or pneumonitis. Abdominal surgery can cause abdominal pain, digestive problems, constipation, coughing up blood, and nerve damage.
Another risk from surgery is the possibility of malignant seeding, the unintended depositing of tumor cells at the site of the incisions, which could cause the development of another tumor at that location.
The medications used in chemotherapy are very powerful, and affects healthy cells as well as tumor cells. Possible side effects from chemotherapy, due to damage to healthy cells, may include nausea and low blood counts of white and red blood cells, loss of appetite, hair loss, neuropathy, ringing in the ears and weight loss.
Even in the face of serious side effects, many patients decide to pursue mesothelioma treatment. Working with experienced mesothelioma specialists, patients often achieve significant reduction in pain and greater comfort and quality of life, and sometimes, increased life expectancy.
If by the time of diagnosis the cancer has progressed to Stage III or further, surgery is not recommended as an option. Treatment will be chemotherapy, with the goal of reducing pain, maintaining comfort and quality of life.