Pericardial Mesothelioma Treatment
Pericardial mesothelioma treatment options may be limited for most patients.
Because pericardial mesothelioma lies so close to the heart, it can be difficult to use aggressive treatments without causing too much damage to the heart itself.
In addition, pericardial mesothelioma is often diagnosed when it has already advanced considerably, making such patients ineligible for the most effective treatment method, surgery.
The primary treatment methods for pericardial mesothelioma are:
- Palliative treatments
- Pericardiectomy (tumor removal)
When possible, doctors attempt a multimodal treatment approach consisting of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and/or immunotherapy.
Surgery is often the most effective way to improve the lifespan of pericardial mesothelioma patients.
Most pericardial mesothelioma patients undergo 1 of 2 surgeries:
- Pericardiectomy: This surgery involves the removal of tumors by removing part or all of the pericardium.
- Tumor resection: During tumor resection, surgeons remove cancerous tumors without removing the pericardium.
A 2017 review published in Herz medical journal found that tumor resection patients lived longer than patients who had a pericardiectomy.
Overall, chemotherapy has not proven to be particularly effective in treating pericardial mesothelioma.
However, some patients have responded well to the chemotherapy drugs pemetrexed and cisplatin. The combination of cisplatin, gemcitabine, and vinorelbine have also shown promise in slowing the progression of the disease.
When possible, chemotherapy is used in addition to surgery to help slow the regrowth of tumors.
Specialists rarely prescribe radiation therapy as part of a pericardial mesothelioma treatment plan.
Although there have been some success stories, radiation generally has had little effect on pericardial mesothelioma. More importantly, it can be dangerous to use near the heart.
Clinical trials are a type of research that studies a new treatment’s safety and effectiveness. In addition to advancing new treatments for pericardial mesothelioma, they may also give hope to current patients who may have few treatment options.
Although clinical trials for pericardial mesothelioma are rare, pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma trials also play a large role in finding new approaches for the former’s treatment.
Emerging Treatment Options
Some new cancer treatments have shown success with pericardial mesothelioma patients.
Promising new treatment options include:
- Anti-angiogenesis: During this treatment, scientists use special drugs to block the growth of blood vessels in cancerous tumors rather than blocking cancer cells, themselves. Without extra blood, tumors are unable to grow beyond a few millimeters.
- Gene therapy: Gene therapy is the process of changing, removing, or adding genes to a patient in order to fight or prevent a disease. Gene therapy is being tested to fight cancer in several ways.
- Immunotherapy: This treatment involves training the body’s own immune system to effectively target and kill cancer cells.
- Photodynamic therapy: This therapy makes cancerous tissue photosensitive with a specious drug and then uses a laser light to kill the cancer.
These new treatment options are currently being studied in clinical trials.
The goal of palliative treatment is to reduce pain and discomfort rather than extend the life of a patient. Most treatments for pericardial mesothelioma are palliative because the disease is often diagnosed late after the cancer has spread considerably.
Palliative treatment for pericardial mesothelioma may take the form of:
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy can slow the growth of tumors, which may, in turn, help prevent symptoms.
- Medication: A doctor may prescribe pain medication to help patients deal with their symptoms.
- Pericardiocentesis: During a pericardiocentesis, a surgeon inserts a small catheter into the heart lining and drains fluid buildup to ease the pressure caused by pericardial effusions.
- Pericardiectomy: Removing the lining of the heart eases inflammation-caused pressure and stops some painful chronic symptoms such as fluid buildup around the heart.
Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, stress reduction practices, and relaxation techniques may also help patients cope with the symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma.