NASHVILLE, Tennessee—Standard treatments for the care of mesothelioma seemed to have failed to stop or slow the growth of the cancer, but the first mesothelioma patient treated with a new protocol has shown successful results. The results are early and show similarities to the investigative protocol’s success against several other aggressive cancers.
The patient with mesothelioma is a woman in her late forties. She was exposed to asbestos fiber when she was a child and was diagnosed with the rare cancer in 2008.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber which is extremely strong, flexible and lightweight, and which can be woven into fabric or mixed into building materials such as concrete. It has a remarkable ability to resist heat, electrical conduction, salt water, and other chemical and biological changes. It has been widely used in building materials and insulation, as well as in automotive parts and other industrial capacities.
When the asbestos fibers are released into the air, however, they can be breathed into the lungs, where they may cause damage years after the initial exposure. Among the most common diseases related to asbestos exposure are asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer.
Asbestos related diseases, such as mesothelioma, have a long latency period—sometimes decades long—and when the disease is diagnosed, it has usually become incurable. When the patient in question was diagnosed in 2008, tumors already had filled most of the chest space where her right lung had been.
She went through the approved treatments, but saw no results from the standard chemotherapy protocols. At that point, she was invited to visit NeoPlas Innovation’s Nashville clinic in order to begin a new outpatient treatment.
CT scans two months later revealed that her cancer had been stabilized and that the largest of her tumors had actually shrunk in size.
NeoPlas Innovation Director of Research Dr. Stephen B. Cantrell said, “These are early results from one patient, so no conclusions can be drawn yet. Mesothelioma is so relentless and uniformly fatal, though, that being able to stop its growth and spread is very exciting. Most importantly, it’s a major victory for this patient. It mirrors the success we’re seeing for the great majority of our patients with other cancers, as well.”
Treatment of this kind is available on a case-by-case basis for qualified patients who have colon cancer, renal (kidney) cancer, pancreatic cancer, melanoma and certain sarcomas.
The new treatment is actually an “off-label” combination of two existing medicines: lovastatin and interferon. In 1998 Dr. Jerffrey Rubins and colleagues reported that lovastatin had a significant effect against mesothelioma. According to Dr. Cantrell, “The key to moving from the lab to success in humans has been taking a fresh look and finding the right medicines to combine. When we have administered a precisely time regimen of low-dose interferon with lovastation, the results have been surprising.”
The most notable side effect of the treatment is fatigue, but most patients do not experience the side effects common to chemotherapy and radiation, such as vomiting, hair loss, and nausea.