A clinical trial examining the effectivness of trimodality therapy on malignant pleural mesothelioma patients, which was recently published in the medical journal Lung Cancer, has found that surgery, chemotherapy and radiation in combination with one another may increase traditional survival rates.
Thirty-five malignant pleural mesothelioma patients took part in the clinical trial, in which they first underwent radical pleurectomy surgery – a form of surgery which is less invasive than the traditional extrapleural pneumonectomy, because it removes only the lining of the lung, as opposed to the entire lung – and then had four cycles of chemotherapy, followed by radiation therapy. The chemotherapy drugs used in the study were Cisplatin and Permetrexed.
Radiation therapy was administered to the patients approximately four to six weeks after the surgery to remove the pleura, or lining of the lung. Promising results came out of the study, including an overall median survival rate of 30 months, which is much greater than the average survival rate of four to 18 months in the general population of mesothelioma patients. Survival rates of one year, two years and three years were a very positive 69 percent, 50 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Mesothelioma, a rare and often baffling cancer which affects the pleura or other membranous linings within the body, is generally linked to previous, often occupational, asbestos exposure. Asbestos, once widely used throughout the industrial and construction worlds as an insulating and strengthening additive to many building materials, is a known carcinogen.
It is comprised of microscopic, yet sharp, fibers which can penetrate the pleura, the pericardium, and the peritoneum, and then cause the surrounding cells to replicate uncontrollably and become malignant. Mesothelioma strikes 2,000 to 3,000 new patients each year in the United States, and usually carries a grim prognosis. Since mesothelioma has an extremely long latency period and may not become symptomatic until decades after exposure, it’s usually only diagnosed at a later stage, at which time treatment is less effective. There is no cure for mesothelioma.