New Agent for Pleurodesis May Help Malignant Mesothelioma Patients

According to two recent studies, outlined in the journal Respirology, suggests that a new agent called iodopovidone may be effective in the surgical procedure known as pleurodesis, which is used to reduce the buildup of excess pleural fluid is mesothelioma and other cancer patients.

Pleural effusion, as the buildup is known, is one of the most uncomfortable and debilitating side effects of mesothelioma. It also occurs in approximately one-quarter of lung cancer patients, and one-third of breast cancer patients. A procedure known as a pleurodesis, in which the pleural cavity is injected with an agent, such as talc, in order to fuse together the mesothelial layers so that no fluid can accumulate between them, can provide relief from the pain, cough and shortness of breath commonly reported by patients with pleural effusion. Yet existing agents are often accompanied by significant side effects of their own, and may have negligible success.

One of the published studies has shown that iodopovidone is as effective as doxycycline—another common pleurodesing agent—in rabbit test subjects, yet is not prohibitively toxic in the range of doses that would be used for humans. The other study, a retrospective analysis of 61 pleurodesis procedures performed with iodopovidone, had a success rate of about 99 percent and less than 20 percent repoted complications.

Malignant mesothelioma, although a rare disease, is increasing in the United States and around the world, causing researchers to search for improved diagnostic and treatment methods. Currently diagnosed in approximately 3,000 new patients annually in the U.S., mesothelioma kills roughly 20,000 people worldwide each year.

The cancer is almost exclusively associated with exposure to asbestos fibers, which penetrate the mesothelium and lead to the formation of a diffuse tumor. This exposure is most often attributable to having worked with the fibers in construction, factory work, plumbing, shipbuilding or similar occupations, but can also occur on a secondhand basis, as the fibers can be air- and water-borne. Currently, mesothelioma is considered incurable.