Researchers in the United Kingdom have completed a study which found that chemotherapy treatments do not have any substantial positive impact on patients suffering from malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, which is caused by exposure to asbestos, is generally incurable, but some clinicians have held out hope that chemotherapy treatment could delay mortality or improve patients’ quality of life, hopes dashed by the study
s result. The study was published in the Lancet, and examined 409 mainly British mesothelioma patients, all of whom received the standard battery of therapies for malignant mesothelioma, consisting of steroid therapy and radiation treatments. These standard therapies are intended to reduce the symptoms caused by the disease and to slow the course of mortality. Some of the patients also received chemotherapy in addition, and the study looked for differences in the outcomes and reported quality of life between the two groups. Although the study found a very slight increase in the expected lifespan of the chemotherapy patients, the study authors reported that the difference was not statistically significant. There was no difference in the reported quality of life. Study author Dr. Richard Stephens of the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit said “While thousands are and will be affected by this deadly disease, our trial, which is one of the few large trials ever conducted in this disease, emphasizes how difficult mesothelioma is to treat.
This is mainly because mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lung. This makes it hard to target.” Coauthor Kate Law, director of clinical trials for Cancer Research UK noted that “These results showed no real benefit from adding these chemotherapy drugs compared with just treating the symptoms of the disease. Any treatment can have serious side effects for patients and these findings highlight that people should not have treatment that is not of proven benefit.” However, there is still some hope that chemotherapy might be of use against mesothelioma, if different drugs were to be used. Writing in the Lancet, Dr. Nicholas Vogelzang of the Nevada Cancer Institute, suggested that other combinations of chemotherapy drugs might be more effective, citing a different study in which half of patients receiving chemotherapy had survived for a year or more. Mesothelioma kills more than 2000 people each year in the United Kingdom , and the mortality figure is expected to rise for years to come despite the ban on asbestos there, as mesothelioma has a very long latency people and nearly all of the people who die each year are those who were exposed many years or even decades ago.