Mesothelioma is a disease primarily caused by asbestos exposure and is usually fatal within a short period of time, however studies continue in search of a mesothelioma cure. This is not a simple task, as researchers are still not sure of the reason asbestos fibers encourage cancer in some individuals. With the long latency period between exposure and diagnosis, people will be fighting this disease for many decades to come. That means that new treatments to defeat the disease are urgently needed.
In the past, and currently, treatments often consisted of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery. These have extended the lives of many patients and they still do. However, as noted by the American Cancer Society, there are new studies and treatments that carry the promise that they may do more than extend life for a few months and actually bring about a cure.
What are the latest treatments?
While there are treatments currently in use, they are often limited in their effect and generally extend life a little longer rather than cure the disease. New ideas and studies take place all the time. Some of the newest treatments still under testing are listed below.
Clinical trials are underway using a patient’s own immune cells to attack their cancer. These cells are removed from the blood, taken to the lab where they are manipulated to react to tumor cells. They are then put back into the patient’s body through a blood transfusion. The presumption is these transformed immune cells will encourage the patient’s immune system to kill the cancer cells.
One other immunotherapy in trials uses tremelimumab, a drug that encourages the immune system to attack full force as it targets specific immune cells.
This innovative treatment uses modified viruses and injects them into the cancer cells. Once an infection is created, the virus introduces new selected genes into the cells, which makes the cells easier to destroy. In some tests, the gene present in the virus assists in turning on the immune system to attack the cancer cells.
Still in the early stages of testing, a specially created virus is put into the pleural space of the cancer cell. In the desired outcome, the virus would directly infect and then kill the cancer cells, or indirectly, the immune system would be encouraged to kill the cancer cells.
While chemotherapy has been used for some time but with limited success, there are newer chemotherapy drugs in tests that may do much more. These drugs are targeted to a specific type of cell or protein instead of standard chemotherapy that affects the whole body. This means there are usually fewer side effects.
While it sounds futuristic, there are a number of clinical trials in process that study the use of photodynamic therapy (PDT). Veins are injected with a light-activated drug. Once in the body, it spreads into cancer cells throughout the body. After a few days, a tube with a special red light on the tip is placed into the chest, usually after a surgery. The drug is activated by the light producing a chemical change that kills the cancer cells. Because all this happens only within the cancer cells, there may be fewer side effects.
The knowledge that studies continue in search of a mesothelioma cure should be an encouragement to anyone diagnosed with the disease or who have a experienced extended exposure to asbestos. Contact your doctor or this link to view current trials and, perhaps, find a new trial that interests you. There is hope, and we need to support those who are researching for ways to combat and kill mesothelioma before it continues its deadly toll.