Is There a Cure for Mesothelioma?

There is no cure for mesothelioma. The cancer's long latency period does not affect survival, but late onset of symptoms delays diagnosis and effective treatment. New diagnostic and treatment technologies are helping some patients live for years with the aggressive cancer.

Get the Best Treatment
Watch the Video
Leading mesothelioma expert Dr. David Sugarbaker on finding a cure for mesothelioma.

Content Contributors


Written By

Edited By

This page features: 11 cited research articles

It’s one of the first questions mesothelioma patients ask their doctors after learning of their diagnosis: “Is there a cure?”

Unfortunately, the answer is no. While remission and recurrence is common, there is no cure for mesothelioma — at least not right now.

But, improvements to current cancer treatments and breakthroughs in clinical trials are getting researchers closer to finding a cure.

What’s the proof? Some survivors are living longer, healthier lives, despite the less-than-optimistic prognosis.

Current Treatments Fuel Mesothelioma Research

Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery remain the traditional and best treatments for mesothelioma. Researchers are improving their efficacy and looking for new ways to perform these therapies.

As a result, surgeries are more precise, therapies are more exact, and chemotherapy and radiation are more effective.

Here are some examples of how researchers are refining these treatments:

  • Chemotherapy: The most effective chemotherapy treatment combines the FDA-approved drugs pemetrexed and cisplatin. Researchers are now looking at the possibility of adding bevacizumab (Avastin) to the combination. The hope is that all three drugs will delay the cancer spread and increase overall survival rates.
  • Surgery: Extrapleural pneumonectomy, pleurectomy/decortication and cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC are major mesothelioma surgeries. Researchers are evaluating if adding heated chemotherapy or cryotherapy (freezing of tumors) to certain surgical procedures will improve overall effectiveness.
  • Multimodal: A multimodal therapy approach that combines surgery with both chemotherapy and radiation has proven effective in early-stage patients. Even patients who are not candidates for surgery have found chemotherapy and immunotherapy combinations that can work for them.
Dr. David Sugarbaker Thoracic Surgeon

“This is not the death sentence it was 20 years ago. Long-term survival is possible. We now have the road map, and others have traveled the path. I remain optimistic that we can, in the next decade, put together the right combination of patient and treatment to affect a cure, which is our holy grail.”

Emerging Treatments for Mesothelioma


Immunotherapy is considered one of the greatest medical advancements for the mesothelioma community. It is sparking optimism with promising results in multiple clinical trials around the world. Researchers are focused on the potential benefits of using patients’ own immune systems to combat mesothelioma.

Keytruda is the drug responsible for saving former President Jimmy Carter from melanoma cancer in 2015. It is one of the most well-known immunotherapy drugs. The drug continues to show groundbreaking effectiveness in mesothelioma clinical trial participants.

Mesothelioma specialist Dr. Jacques Fontaine talks with about the future of mesothelioma treatment.

Gene Therapy

Scientists continue to study the possibility of manipulating a patient’s genes to treat or prevent certain diseases. The goal of gene therapy is to directly repair problems caused by defective genes.

One type of gene therapy, known as suicide gene therapy, genetically modifies cancer cells to include a gene that kills the cell.

Another type of gene therapy targets the p53 gene, a gene that helps the immune system find and kill cancer cells.

Dr. Raja Flores Thoracic surgeon

“It [the cure] is out there somewhere now. We just have to start thinking outside the box more. We’ve got to come up with something that no one has put together yet. But it’s there.”

For pleural mesothelioma patients, gene therapy is feasible. Doctors can easily reach the pleural membrane to deliver genes, conduct biopsies and monitor treatment results.

While gene therapy does not currently offer a permanent cure for mesothelioma, it has shown promise in clinical trials.

Breakthroughs in Clinical Trials Bring Us Closer to a Cure

Researchers are tirelessly looking for new therapies because traditional treatment options don’t work well for mesothelioma.

Currently, the process for introducing a new asbestos cancer medication typically takes 12 to 15 years. To ensure patient safety, adequate time must be spent in each stage of the development process. This is where clinical trials come in.

Preliminary research for clinical trials test new drugs on samples of mesothelioma tumors, rather than on patients directly, thanks to the National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank.

It takes nearly seven years for a new medication to make it to the first phase of a clinical trial. From there, the medication goes through four phases of clinical testing before becoming available for all patients.

Dr. Tirrell Johnson discusses the most recent research topics involving mesothelioma.

Clinical trials help researchers improve their understanding of mesothelioma and find new ways to combat the disease. Once a specific drug or treatment has shown some success and safety in a lab setting, it can be studied in a clinical trial.

Recent clinical trials have greatly improved our ability to treat mesothelioma. One new therapy under investigation is photodynamic therapy, which uses light to kill cancer cells. Another new therapy is epigenetic therapy, which reverses the genetic damage that contributes to cancer development.

Most mesothelioma research in the U.S. takes place at universities, cancer centers, research centers and hospitals such as:

Here are some examples of how researchers are refining these treatments:

Obstacles to a Cure for Mesothelioma

Thanks to researchers, the future is looking much brighter for people diagnosed with mesothelioma. But there are still several hurdles we must cross on the road to a cure.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. Unlike the more common lung, colon and breast cancers, there is a distinct lack of awareness and research dollars. Federal funding for government research on mesothelioma is significantly less compared to other cancers.

The biggest problem with the lack of mesothelioma awareness is that doctors don’t get a chance to treat many patients in an early stage of the cancer. The insidious nature of the disease is that symptoms may not be painful or even noticeable to the patient during early stages. Symptoms often mirror those of less serious health issues, slowing the diagnosis while the disease is spreading.

If a patient is not diagnosed until stage 3 or 4 of cancer development, treatment options are much more limited. This may disqualify patients from certain treatments, such as surgery, and it can make it harder for patients to participate in clinical trials.

“The real gains will be made from finding it earlier,” said Harvey Pass, M.D., a surgeon and long-time leader in mesothelioma advancements. “Treatments will work better. It could be very important in turning this into a chronic illness.”

Closer to a Cure Than Before

Finding the absolute mesothelioma cure still may be years away, but finding a way to control mesothelioma has taken hold.

The six-months-to-live prognosis is no longer the norm at specialty centers with experience in treating this rare disease. Patients diagnosed early are living considerably longer today. It is no longer unusual to find a five- or ten-year mesothelioma survivor. There is hope.

Get the Best Treatment Options

Find a Doctor Mesothelioma Packet

Order Your Free Treatment Guide

Get Yours Now

Find a Mesothelioma Clinical Trial Near You

Get Help Now

Share this article

Last Modified November 7, 2018

Registered Nurse and Patient Advocate

Karen Selby joined in 2009. She is a registered nurse with a background in oncology and thoracic surgery and was the regional director of a tissue bank before becoming a Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center. Karen has assisted surgeons with thoracic surgeries such as lung resections, lung transplants, pneumonectomies, pleurectomies and wedge resections. She is also a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators.

Walter Pacheco, Managing Editor at
Edited by
Reviewed by placeholder
Medical Review By

5 Cited Article Sources

  1. Galateau-Salle, F. Pathology of Malignant Mesothelioma. London: Springer-Verlag London Limited, 2006. 
  2. Pass, I., Vogelzang, N., Carbone, M. Malignant Mesothelioma: Advances in Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Transitional Therapies. New York: Springer, 2005. 
  3. NHS. (2016, February 3). Mesothelioma.
    Retrieved from:
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2017, December 2017). Mesothelioma.
    Retrieved from:
  5. MedlinePlus. (2018, March 1). Mesothelioma. Retrieved from:

Did this article help you?

Did this article help you?

Thank you for your feedback. Would you like to speak with a Patient Advocate?

On This Page

Back to Top

On This Page

Content Contributors

Share Our Page

Free Awareness Wristbands

Get free mesothelioma wristbands to show support for a loved one

Get your wristbands Mesothelioma Wristbands
Chat live with a patient advocate now loading spinner