Although no definitive cure is in sight, the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma has entered a promising, much-anticipated phase that goes beyond the multimodal approach that has been the standard of care at specialty centers for the past several years.
There is new hope on the horizon.
Thoracic surgeon and renowned mesothelioma specialist Dr. Robert Cameron, along with scientist Raymond Wong, Ph.D., and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Svetlana Kotova, recently detailed the changing face of therapy in a paper they co-authored and published in the Cancer Management Research Journal .
“With all the ongoing research, real progress is only a matter of time,” they wrote. “The list of potential new therapies is long, and the number of clinical trials is impressive.”
Cameron, director of thoracic surgery at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and medical advisor for the Pacific Meso Center in Los Angeles, has been a pioneer in the standard, three-pronged combination that includes lung-sparing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Cameron also believes future therapeutic advances are within reach, turning mesothelioma into a more manageable disease like diabetes.
Those advances include systemic therapies that affect the entire body in hopes of killing the cancer and localized treatments that specifically target the tumors. Many advances are part of on-going clinical trials showing promising results.
A majority of the newest therapeutic options stem from the improved understanding of the specific cancer biology and expanded knowledge of molecular signaling and immune responses. Research is paying off.
“Part of the reason for writing [this paper] was to create awareness,” Wong told Asbestos.com. “Not every clinical trial out there is the best option for a patient. But at least patients should now look into what is out there beyond conventional treatment.”
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Some of the newest potential drugs and therapies currently tested include immunotherapies that boost a patient’s immune system and drugs that slow the growth of new blood vessels to tumors, among others.
There currently are more than 200 clinical trials, ranging from phase I to phase III, involving mesothelioma nationwide. Many of them are designed to test new drugs and new therapies.
The authors stressed the importance of clinical trial participation for a patient’s immediate benefit and for the benefit of future patients who will be helped by the research. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer with an estimated 3,000 patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
“In the future, it is critical that clinicians treat this disease with equipoise, and that patients be placed in randomized prospective clinical trials in order to truly determine optimal therapy for these patients,” the authors wrote.