Mesothelioma Treatment Study Begins

Clinicians in New York are signing up mesothelioma patients for a new study to test a method for treating malignant mesothelioma in the lungs.

A team of researchers from the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center are organizing the study. Traditional treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma is the removal of the mesothelium (a thin layer of cells that surrounds the lung, heart, and abdomen) or the removal of a lung. Although lung removal can extend lifespan when done early enough, sufficiently early detection of mesothelioma is rare because the disease progresses so quickly.

Researchers have been looking for effective treatments for mesothelioma since the discovery of the disease. Because it is an extremely aggressive form of cancer, traditional chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments have not been found effective. “Current surgical and chemotherapy treatments of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma are unsatisfactory, and have not been shown to significantly prolong survival,” according to principal investigator Dr. Robert Taub, the director of the Mesothelioma Center at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia and a professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The new therapeutic approach involves the use of tightly-targeted radiation aimed directly at the mesothelium in conjunction with chemotherapy. Previous results have shown that this treatment method is less toxic than other radiation/chemotherapy combinations; the new study will focus on whether the treatment has any therapeutic value for patients.

The investigators hope that targeting the radiation to the mesothelium will kill the cancer cells on the surface of the lung, while doing less damage to noncancerous regions of the lung and surrounding tissues.