Palliative radiotherapy is used to shrink cancer, slow growth and reduce symptoms. It will not cure cancer but aims to give patients more time with their loved ones, with the aim of improving quality of life for sufferers.

University of Pennsylvania

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have been working on boosting the effects of palliative radiotherapy for pleural mesothelioma patients. It has been shown that using immuno-gene therapy along with palliative radiotherapy could yield good results for mesothelioma patients.

Immuno-gene therapy uses genes to manipulate the patient’s immune system to attack the cancer.

67 year old pleural mesothelioma patient

The exciting discovery was uncovered when a 67 year old man with pleural mesothelioma was receiving immune-gene therapy for pleural mesothelioma. The treatment could not be completed as the patient developed a fast heartbeat. His mesothelioma had partly blocked the blood flow to his heart.

His treating team then used palliative radiotherapy to try and shrink the mesothelioma. Following this he was treated with chemotherapy.

Response “better than expected”

The patient’s response to the treatment was better than expected. Two months after the palliative radiotherapy, a CT scan showed a “dramatic treatment response” in the tumour blocking the blood flow to the sufferer’s heart.

In addition to the treated tumour shrinking, the patient’s other tumours also decreased in size, despite them being outside of the radiation treatment area. This response is known as the abscopal effect.

The abscopal effect

This is the first known example of a mesothelioma patient with a recorded abscopal effect after receiving palliative radiotherapy. It is believed this occurred due to the effect of immuno-gene therapy which preceded the radiotherapy.

What does this mean for mesothelioma patients?

Although there were some complications in the patient’s treatment, this is exciting news for pleural mesothelioma patients. It is particularly good news for patients who are unable to undergo invasive surgery, as this provides a further,  potentially beneficial, non-surgical treatment option.

If you require assistance in pursuing a mesothelioma claim and wish explore claiming for private treatment costs, or believe you have a valid asbestos claim for any other asbestos disease then please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the ‘Contact Us’ page, complete the form and we will be in touch.


Barsky, AR, et al, “First-ever Abscopal Effect after Palliative Radiotherapy and Immuno-gene Therapy for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma”, February 2019, Cureus,

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