There are several types of treatment available for patients with mesothelioma, some
recommended more frequently than others. The most commonly used treatments are
surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. In
addition, some experimental treatments are becoming
more widely used, or are showing some encouraging
results in clinical trials. These treatments include
photodynamic therapy, gene therapy, and
immunotherapy, among others.
Most of these treatments are not used in isolation. In many cases, treatment may consist of
a combination of therapies. For example, surgery to remove as much of the cancer as
possible may be followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy to remove residual cancer cells.
This is one of the most common treatment options for mesothelioma among those who are
candidates for surgery.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma
it is likely you’re interested in the various treatment options
available. Working with your doctor to create the best
treatment plan is an important step. Knowing what the
treatment plan will do to help treat the cancer often helps
patients and their families understand the process and feel
We offer a complimentary informative packet that includes all the information on our
Web site and additional information about available treatment options that you may take
with you continually educate yourself and those around you about mesothelioma. Click
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A number of alternative therapies can also be combined with traditional treatment options.
Many patients choose to add alternative therapies such as massage, acupuncture, or TENS
therapy to their conventional treatment approach in an effort to enhance or compliment the
treatment process. A variety of alternative therapies, including aromatherapy, meditation, or
yoga, are often added to a treatment regimen to provide pain relief and foster relaxation.
Though a cure for mesothelioma does not currently exist, many patients elect to undergo
treatment to combat the cancer. Patients may also wish to participate in clinical trials
conducted to test up-and-coming treatments and medications before they are released and
recommended for public use. Clinical trials are extremely important in the search for a
mesothelioma cure. Knowledge gained from study results greatly help medical
professionals come closer to the discovery of a cure for mesothelioma.
5-Year Survival Rates for
Certain doctors such as Dr. David Sugarbaker have actively pursued better treatment
options for mesothelioma patients and have been instrumental in the quest for a cure.
Utilizing a multi-modal approach, Dr. Sugarbaker has made great strides in mesothelioma
treatment and has increased survival rates for mesothelioma patients.
Learning that a cure does not exist can be discouraging to mesothelioma patients and their
loved ones, but stories of survivors continue to surface, instilling hope in those affected by
Surgical treatments for mesothelioma include three main types - diagnostic surgery,
curative surgery, and palliative surgery. Some types of surgery fall into more than one
Surgery can only be performed
during mesothelioma stages I and
For example, thoracentesis may be used as a diagnostic procedure, and as a palliative
treatment to provide symptomatic relief. Only curative surgery can potentially remove all
cancer from a patient with mesothelioma.
However, for curative surgery to be effective, it is particularly important that mesothelioma
be diagnosed as early as possible. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is not usually diagnosed
until it reaches Stage III or IV, when surgery is not an option.
Most forms of chemotherapy involve the intravenous administration of drugs such as
Alimta and Cisplatin. Chemotherapeutic drugs are targeted to kill cells that are rapidly
dividing by interfering with processes that occur during cell division.
Chemotherapy is an effective
treatment option but comes with
unpleasant side effects.
However, while cancer cells themselves divide rapidly, so do some types of healthy cells,
causing some of the unpleasant side effects that are often associated with this form of
treatment. Though older chemotherapy medications seemed to do little to fight
mesothelioma, newer chemotherapy drugs are showing much promise.
A relatively new form of chemotherapy called heated chemotherapy is an option for patients
with peritoneal mesothelioma.
This treatment is carried out following surgery, and involves the perfusion of heated
chemotherapeutic medications into the peritoneum.
Radiation therapy, or "ionizing radiation", is used to kill cancer cells and to limit the spread
of cancer. For patients with mesothelioma, radiation therapy is most often used in
conjunction with surgery.
Radiation is often used in
conjunction with surgery.
However, in some cases radiation may be used as a stand-alone treatment to relieve pain
and other symptoms associated with mesothelioma. In either case, it is rare for radiation
therapy to provide more than short-term symptomatic relief.
Mesothelioma patients may receive one of two types of radiation therapies, depending on
whether or not they are suitable candidates for either procedure.
External beam radiation therapy is the traditional type of radiation therapy, where tumors
are bombarded with beams of radiation to kill cancer cells. Brachytherapy is a newer type of
radiation treatment. It involves tiny radioactive rods which are implanted within a tumor to
provide a strong, concentrated dose of radiation to tumors while doing very little damage to
surrounding healthy tissue.
Photodynamic therapy is a highly specialized and specific form of treatment that is most
often used to treat skin cancers, some types of lung cancer, and pleural mesothelioma.
Photodynamic therapy uses light
energy to kill cancer cells.
However, this treatment is usually unsuitable for patients with metastasized cancer; it is
most effective in patients who have localized disease.
This type of therapy involves the use of light energy to kill cancer cells. In photodynamic
therapy treatment, the patient is given an intravenous solution of a medication that makes
cancer cells highly sensitive to a particular kind of light.
One to three days after this treatment, the patient is exposed to the light, and cancer cells
that have absorbed the medication are killed.
Gene therapy involves using genetic material to specifically target cancer cells and make
them more vulnerable to chemotherapy treatment.
"Suicide Gene Therapy" is the
most popular form of gene therapy
The main type of gene therapy being developed for use in mesothelioma patients is called
"suicide gene therapy," because it forces cancer cells to produce substances that cause
When undergoing this type of gene therapy, the patient is treated with a non-infectious virus
that has been altered with genetic material that makes them produce a particular protein.
Following this procedure, the patient is then treated with a chemotherapeutic medication
that is specially formulated to be toxic only to cancer cells. This type of therapy has
produced some promising results for mesothelioma patients, but it is still only available
through clinical trials.
Immunotherapy is a type of treatment in which the patient's own immune system is
'tricked' into killing cancer cells. A healthy, normally-functioning immune system does not
kill cancer cells, because even though these are diseased cells, the immune system is
unable to recognize them as being harmful.
There are two main types of immunotherapy: active and passive. In active immunotherapy,
mesothelioma cancer cells are removed from a patient and then treated in a laboratory to
turn them into a vaccine. Following this laboratory treatment, the patient is injected with the
vaccine and if the treatment is successful, the patient's immune system recognizes the
vaccine as a harmful substance, thus recognizing the cancer as being harmful as well.
Passive immunotherapy is somewhat different in that it does not attempt to activate the
patient's immune system. Instead, it uses substances such as cytokines (molecules that
direct and regulate the immune system) and other agents to help boost the patient's
immune response to their cancer.
The resources at Asbestos.com are here to serve and benefit those affected by asbestos
exposure. One of the site's main goals is to provide help and assistance to those coping
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To learn even more about the range of treatment options available to mesothelioma
patients, please fill out the form on the right to receive a comprehensive information packet.
You can also call 800-615-2270 with any questions or concerns - our well-informed staff is
ready and eager to offer assistance on a wide range of relating issues.
We provide extensive resources to educate and benefit those affected by asbestos
exposure. One of our main goals is to provide help and assistance to those coping with
asbestos-related disease, and we offer a complimentary comprehensive packet that can
be mailed directly to you overnight. The packet allows you to take our Web site and
additional educational information with you to share with your family wherever you go.
To learn more about the range of treatment options available to mesothelioma patients,
please fill out this form to receive your packet. Our Patient and Family Advocates are also
happy to answer any questions or address concerns you may have over the phone. To
speak with an educated representative, please call 800-615-2270.
1. Dodson, R. and Hammar, S. Asbestos: Risk Assessment, Epidemiology, and Health Effects. Taylor & Francis: Boca
2. Galateau-Salle, Francoise. Pathology of Malignant Mesothelioma. Springer-Verlag London Limited: London. 2006.
3. Pass, I., Vogelzang, N., Carbone, M. Malignant Mesothelioma: Advances in Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Transitional
Therapies. Springer: New York. 2005.