The hazards of asbestos exposure has been known for a long time and the majority of asbestos-related products have been removed from our marketplace. Despite this, mesothelioma rates have continued to rise. According to the Environmental Working Group, 4,852 people died in Minnesota between 1999 and 2013 of asbestos related deaths.
Up to this point treatment of asbestos-related cancers, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis has not been effective in improving survival rates and finding a cure. Survival rates for these types of cancer range between one and two years. New research is working on changing that and progress is being made.
Treatment focused on attacking the cancer directly
Several methods of treatment are focused on attacking mesothelioma cells directly. The first deals with chemotherapy pairings.
Treating cancer using chemotherapy requires the ability to identify the most-effective chemotherapy drug. For mesothelioma, the most effective treatments focus on preventing cell growth.
Research has shown that pairing Alimta, which blocks enzymes need for cancer cell replication, with Cisplatin, which damages the DNA of cancer cells to prevent replication.
The second method of treatment is a targeted therapy which focuses on attacking the cancer cells directly without affecting other cells.
Not all research has been successful. Research had focused on one drug, defactinib, which was tested in several countries. After several years of study, this drug was ultimately abandoned because it did not measurably alter patient outcomes.
TroVax is an immunotherapy drug that works by stimulating the immune system to fight the cancer. It is proving to be effective, especially when combined with the chemotherapy treatments mentioned above.
Cancer cells form after healthy cells go through a series of mutations. Gene therapies work by undoing the mutations.
Chemotherapy is often paired with radiation when treating cancer. Intensely Modulated Radiation Therapy delivers radiation directly to the tumors without affecting healthy cells.
Another controversial radiation treatment is prophylactic radiation therapy. Studies on this form of treatment have not been conclusive. Some researchers believe it may be effective in helping to stop the spread of cancer when combined with other treatments.
Early indicators are showing that photodynamic therapies are effective in treating mesothelioma. Photodynamic therapies work by injecting a solution that adheres to cancer cells, then using a laser tuned to a specific wavelength to attack and kill cancer cells.
Additional research is focused on catching the disease early, before it has a chance to spread. Researchers are working on identifying biomarkers in a simple blood screen to catch mesothelioma early.
While treatments have not been effective in curing mesothelioma, the good news is that there is progress being made. Research on this important health hazard continues all over the world. With a greater focus on this terrible cancer, the more likely it is that effective treatments will be found.