Important New Developments in the Management of Mesothelioma

Research is going on all over the world especially in certain developed countries on mesothelioma. A lot of research is going on to try and find causes and better ways of treating the disease. Medical science is working to improve accuracy of diagnosis and effectiveness of treatment. Despite recent progress, much remains to be learned about the best way to treat these cancers.

Research on causes and prevention

Much of the research on mesothelioma has focused on learning exactly how asbestos changes mesothelial cells and their DNA to cause these cancers. Understanding how these fibers produce cancer might help us develop ways to prevent those changes.

The role of asbestos in increasing the risk of mesothelioma is a definite public health concern. Researchers are continuously learning more about which fibers can produce cancer, how they cause these cancers, and what levels of exposure can be considered safe. Now that the dangers of asbestos are known, we can limit or stop exposure in homes, public buildings, and the workplace. Unfortunately, regulations protecting workers from asbestos exposure are much less stringent in some countries than in others.

Research is also under way to clarify the role (if any) of SV40, a virus that has been linked to mesothelioma in some studies.

Research on Treatment

Mesothelioma remains a difficult cancer to treat, and doctors are constantly trying to improve on current approaches. Treatments that use some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, called multimodality therapy, are now being studied and may provide the most promising option for some patients. The use of any of these conventional methods alone is no longer advocated as the results of such treatment regimen has been poor.

Radiation therapy

Mesothelioma does not usually grow as a well-defined tumor. This makes it difficult to aim radiation at it without affecting nearby healthy tissues, which has limited the use of radiation therapy against this cancer.
Newer radiation therapy techniques, such as three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3DCRT) and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) use computers to more precisely map tumors and to deliver radiation more accurately. This may limit side effects and allow doctors to use higher dose of radiation on the tumors themselves.


Some chemotherapy drugs can shrink or slow the growth of mesotheliomas, but in most cases the effects last for a limited time. Several newer chemotherapy drugs, including raltitrexed, are currently being tested in clinical trials, together with other types of treatment.
Doctors are now studying the efficacy of direct administration of chemotherapy drugs directly into the chest or abdominal cavity, often right after surgery. In some cases the drugs are heated before giving them, which may make them work better. Doctors hope that putting the drugs directly into contact with the tumors may allow them to work better, while limiting their side effects on the rest of the body.

Photodynamic therapy

Another technique now being studied is photodynamic therapy (PDT). For this treatment, a light-activated drug is injected into a vein. The drug spreads throughout the body and tends to collect in cancer cells. A few days later (usually just after surgery for the mesothelioma), a special red light on the end of a tube is placed into the chest cavity. The light causes a chemical change that activates the drug and causes the cancer cells to die. Since the drug is only active in the areas exposed to the special light, this approach may cause fewer side effects than use of drugs that spread throughout all tissues of the body. Several clinical trials are now studying the use of PDT for mesothelioma.

Other new methods of treatment include the use of targeted drugs and the use of gene therapy.

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