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There is no certain cure for malignant mesothelioma, but medical researchers have recently developed procedures that can slow the progress of the disease and extend, with quality, the lives of some of those suffering from it.

Below are brief summaries of the available treatment options.

Tri-modality Therapy

Tri-modality therapy combines surgery with radiation and chemotherapy. It is being performed at major medical centers including:

Brigham and Women's in Boston
Mount Sinai in New York

M.D. Anderson in Houston
UCLA in Los Angeles
UCSF in San Francisco


Surgery

In the past several years, surgery has become an important tool for treating mesothelioma. Here are some surgical procedures doctors use to treat mesothelioma:

Pneumonectomy, the surgical removal of a lung. It can be performed in one of two ways:

Traditional pneumonectomy — only the diseased lung is removed.

Extrapleural pneumonectomy — the diseased lung is removed, together with the pleura, the diaphragm, and the pericardium, to remove as much of the tumor as possible.

Pleurectomy

The pleura is removed. This is a palliative procedure, which means it is done to make the patient feel better more than to cure the disease.

These surgeries are accompanied by intra-operative radiation and multi-cycle post-operative chemotherapy. These are not considered experimental procedures and should be covered by insurance and Medicaid. Paul, Hanley & Harley, LLP will be happy to work with you and your primary care physician should you need more detailed information and to refer you to one of the surgeons performing this procedure.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high dose radiation (X rays) to shrink the tumor by destroying cells at the tumor site. Once the size of tumor is reduced, the patient may feel better and be able to breathe more deeply. Radiation may also keep the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Side effects of radiation can include tiredness, skin rashes, and internal mucosa (throat) irritation or hoarseness.

For more information on radiation therapy visit
www.cancerbacup.org.uk/info/radiotherapy.htm
or
www.oncolink.com

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy agents are medicines that kill cancer cells. They may be used on their own, before or after surgery, or along with radiation. Chemotherapy is especially used instead of surgery when a tumor is inoperable. To get chemotherapy, the patient usually goes to the doctor’s office or the hospital, where they are either given medicine to take orally, or they are given the medicine through an IV tube.

Side effects are common, and they include nausea, vomiting, weakness and fatigue. The efficacy of chemotherapy as a single agent in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma has been limited.

Chemotherapy Clinical Trials

Clinical trials (also called medical research and research studies) are research studies used to determine whether new drugs or treatments are both safe and effective. If you take part in a clinical trial, you might be given new medicines or other experimental treatments before they are widely available.

There are many clinical trials of new and combination chemotherapy agents in process around the country.

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

This is a highly experimental treatment using a drug that causes cells to become light sensitive. The drug is applied or injected and attaches itself to the tumor. Then the doctor uses fiber optics to focus intense light on the tumor, killing the tumor cells. This may be able to destroy the whole tumor or residual tumor not reached during surgery. However, keep in mind that the procedure is still under investigation.

For more information, go to this drug-company-sponsored site:
www.lumacare.com

Gene Therapy

Gene therapy is still being researched and is not yet easily available. Researchers are manipulating genes to make them more susceptible to certain anti-cancer drugs. It is possible that this therapy will destroy tumor cells while preserving healthy cells.

Gene therapy for mesothelioma is currently being investigated by Dr. Steve Albenda at the University of Pennsylvania. He may be contacted through www.uphs.upenn.edu.