Treatment & Doctors

Chemo Sensitivity Testing for Mesothelioma Patients

Written By:
Feb 06, 2012
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Written By: Rachel Gilner,
February 6, 2012

After speaking with Joyce Rothman about her previous guest article “Making Sense of it All: Writing as Therapy,” I came across one of her recent blog posts about chemo sensitivity testing.

I did a little research and thought it might be useful information for our mesothelioma community. Joyce was in a position where chemotherapy had already failed once, and her only options were a risky surgery or another round of chemo.

The side effects of chemotherapy made it a tough decision, but then a friend introduced her to chemo sensitivity testing. In addition to Joyce’s blog, chemo sensitivity testing has been featured on many other websites, including Suzanne Somers‘ blog.

Testing Determines Chemo Effectiveness

Chemo sensitivity testing is a way to determine how effective specific chemotherapy agents will be against your condition. The goal of chemo sensitivity testing is to eliminate drugs that already have a resistance to cancerous cells. That helps create a chemo plan that’s successful for you.

Although it is being used, chemo sensitivity is still in infancy in terms of development. Given the harsh toll chemo takes on a patient’s body, it is essential for you to have a good idea if the agent will work.

How Does It Work?

There are a few methods of chemo sensitivity testing. The most basic one requires a tissue sample of the tumor (from a biopsy) to be sent to a lab within 24 hours so that it can be exposed to the chemo medications.

The chemotherapy medications most effective in killing the cancerous cells will be recommended for treatment. Chemo sensitivity testing has been shown to be 85-95 percent effective.

Only a physician can tell you if you’re a candidate for this testing. It’s usually recommended for people who have already tried several rounds of chemo with no success and have run out of options. Chemo sensitivity testing is not normally recommended for patients with aggressive cancers who may not have time to wait before starting treatment.

Why Isn’t Chemo Sensitivity Testing Common?

Only a few laboratories and doctors in the United States perform these tests. However, it is much more common in Germany and Greece (where it is almost standard procedure in cancer patients).

Experts say chemo sensitivity testing is a long process that some patients don’t have the time for. This type of testing has yet to go through clinical trials involving humans, but results in test tubes have demonstrated positive findings.

Considering previous treatment results and hoping for the best is the most common method for selecting chemotherapy drugs today, but we’re hoping this will change. Take control of your health and ask your oncologist about chemo sensitivity testing.

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