Research & Clinical Trials

Researcher: Thalidomide Does Not Slow Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

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Nov 17, 2011
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Written By: Faith Franz,
November 17, 2011

Noted mesothelioma researcher Paul Baas, M.D., announced Thursday that using thalidomide as part of a treatment regimen for malignant pleural mesothelioma does not slow the progression of the cancer.

Baas, lead researcher for the Netherlands Cancer Institute, briefed other cancer scientists on the news Thursday from Perth, Australia, on the final day of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia’s 2011 Annual Scientific Meeting. COSA released details of Baas’s briefing. The study was performed jointly by scientists from The Netherlands and Australia.

“Thalidomide has been shown to be effective in the treatment of hematological cancers such as leukemia, so it was logical to test the potential of the drug in solid tumors,” Baas said.

But thalidomide, an anti-vascular agent, was not effective in the study. Over a 12-month period, researchers looked at 207 patients that did not display signs of cancer progression while being treated with a another drug regime. Patients, who had a median age of 64, had CT scans of their thorax and physical exams at least every eight weeks, Baas told the group.

After a year, however, researchers could show no slowing of the cancer growth. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for about 75 percent of all cases. About 38 percent of patients survive one year; about 11 percent survive two years, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“This means we must reconsider our strategies and assess other options such as surgery, radiation therapy and other targeted agents,” Baas said.

Mesothelioma is a highly rare cancer. It claims between 2,500 and 3,000 lives a year in the United States, and about 3,000 cases are diagnosed each year. The cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos, and people are typically exposed at work.

There is no known cure for mesothelioma, and researchers are eager to find signs of hope in a multitude of clinical trials.

Baas was scheduled to brief fellow researchers on another Phase III trial, that of the use of Vorinostat in patients with advanced malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). The random, double-blind trial studied people who failed prior pemetrexed and either cisplatin or carboplatin therapy. Details of the study’s results were not available.

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