Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that attacks the lining of your organs. It is estimated that at least 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease annually. In the United Kingdom, the incidence rates of mesothelioma are even higher.
Mesothelioma is treated the same way as most cancers, depending on its staging. For early stages of the diseases, surgery is the best option to remove all or majority of the tumors. The surgery can also remove the mesothelial lining, the adjacent lymph nodes, or even part of or the entire organ.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also used alongside the surgery. Chemotherapy targets the remaining cancerous cells that may have been left behind during the surgery. Meanwhile, radiation therapy is oftentimes used to shrink cancer cells so that they would be easier to remove during surgery. The disease also frequently uses a multimodal approach, meaning to say it is a combination of the three treatments.
One of the more popular treatments is combining surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy for peritoneal mesothelioma (mesothelioma that started in the lungs). This combination has been proven to increase the life expectancy of patients.
However, the increasing rates of mesothelioma continues to be alarming. In 2014, there were 2,515 deaths attributed to mesothelioma in Great Britain, according to Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that about 3,060 perished annually from the disease from 2001 to 2005.
A new breakthrough
Despite the severity of the disease, there are several medical advancements that are geared towards lowering the mortality rate of mesothelioma, as well as improving the quality of life of the patients. A recent study published in Science News talked about a new drug that is clinical trial for mesothelioma.
The researchers from the University of Leicester and University of Southampton are looking at ways through which they can boost the immune system to fight off mesothelioma by building its resistance against asbestos. Asbestos exposure has been linked to the disease from the onset, with many people who have been exposed to asbestos coming down with the disease 20 to 40 years after the exposure. The clinical trial will explore where the drug, which has been proven effective against advanced kidney cancer and melanoma, can also be tapped to target mesothelioma.
According to Professor Gareth Griffiths, the study’s co-chief investigator, “The UK has one of the world’s highest incidences of mesothelioma and currently there aren’t many ways to treat it. Boosting the immune system by releasing killer T-cells that have previously been blocked could offer us a new way to treat more patients with this devastating disease.”
Indeed, the study’s anticipated success can be the welcome news patients with mesothelioma may be waiting for. In fact, one person who was on the trial has already seen an 81% reduction on her tumors in the first two years. She is now cancer-free and is advocating for clinical trials, which has saved her life.
In the end, many things must still be explored to finally eradicate the overwhelming disease that is mesothelioma. However, science shows no sign of backing down from the fight.