It’s not just the patients who must overcome the fatalistic approach toward malignant mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive cancer with no cure.
Many medical professionals must make the leap, too. They see only one or two mesothelioma patients annually and are typically unaware of, or unfamiliar with, recent and significant advancements in therapy.
“There still is this fatalistic attitude sometimes — even in the medical community — that there is no hope with this disease,” said Craig Stevens, M.D., radiation oncologist and director of the Mesothelioma Program at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. “But that’s just not true anymore. I want people to know there is hope.”
Upcoming Webinar and Teleconference
To help deliver his message, Dr. Stevens will host a webinar and teleconference from noon to 1 p.m. ET on Aug. 14 at Moffitt. The program — Updates in Mesothelioma Treatment and Research — is aimed at medical professionals wanting to learn more about the disease and its intricacies.
The web seminar is part of the Lung and Thoracic Tumor Education (LATTE) Program at Moffitt. Medical professionals who are interested in participating can register by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone at (813) 745-6438.
“It’s really designed for physicians who occasionally see mesothelioma patients but are not experts at it,” Stevens said. “It’s for experienced health care providers, pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists, who might see it occasionally, but not very often, and don’t know what to do with it.”
Dr. Stevens will discuss advancements in mesothelioma surgery and how they affect state-of-the-art radiation therapy, his specialty. He also will discuss innovations in chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma.
“To treat a cancer like this, you have to be as aggressive as the cancer itself,” he said. “If you’re not aggressive, you’re not going to have a good outcome.”
Moffitt Takes Leadership Role
Although Dr. Stevens’ involvement in the treatment of the disease began decades ago, the Moffitt Cancer Center raised its profile in 2012 by unveiling the Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center, assembling a multidisciplinary team of experts in mesothelioma.
“We have all three legs of the stool — surgery, radiation, chemotherapy — and have people who are interested and experienced in working with mesothelioma,” he said. “As a group, we can make a dent in this disease.”
It’s that multimodal approach that has been working well at Moffitt. Patients are responding. Hope is being rewarded.
The complexities of mesothelioma make it one of the toughest cancers to treat, but a handful of specialty centers are paving new ground, allowing survivors to live longer today.
“The experience for many in the medical community, if they aren’t part of an experienced team, is that patients do poorly with this disease,” Dr. Stevens said. “And if you aren’t treated by a team that knows what it’s doing, the outcome won’t be very good.”
The belief at Moffitt is that patients in the Southeast no longer must travel to Boston, New York or Houston to get the latest and greatest treatment for mesothelioma. The Moffitt team includes pulmonologists, pathologists, nutritionists and nurses with experience in mesothelioma, joining the surgeons, oncologist and radiologists. Team members meet regularly to evaluate cases, making sure each patient is getting a well-coordinated treatment plan.
“If you give up, there is no hope,” Dr. Stevens said. “I think now, there is good reason for hope.”