Currently, the standard treatment for mesothelioma is chemotherapy with or without surgery, depending on the patient. Whilst this treatment has been successful in reducing symptoms and giving patients more time with their families, it is not a cure and is not without side effects.
Side effects of chemotherapy
Every patient is different and reacts differently to treatments but there are some common side effects of chemotherapy:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hair loss
- Sore mouth
- Loss of appetite
Chemotherapy involves the cancer-killing drugs going throughout the whole body and so healthy cells are also affected.
Patients battling mesothelioma may already be weakened and not everyone can tolerate chemotherapy.
Chemoperfusion may be the answer to treating patients without the side effects associated with chemotherapy. Chemoperfusion is carried out by injecting the cancer-killing drugs straight into the vessels that feed the tumour.
Researchers from the Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa have been studying the effects of chemoperfusion on pleural mesothelioma.
Between 2016 and 2019 they looked at 27 patients whose mesothelioma tumours grew, despite having been treated with traditional chemotherapy. Of these patients, three underwent surgery and four also had radiotherapy.
The patients were injected with a mix of chemotherapy drugs, cisplatin, methotrexate and gemcitabine. These were injected directly into the arteries that supplied the pleural membrane. Treatment was done every four weeks.
The disease control rate for chemoperfusion was found to be 70% with one patient having only a partial response and 18 having stable disease. There were no deaths due to the treatment. The median survival rate was 8.5 months from treatment beginning.
Lead researcher, Dr Bela Kis, MD, PhD, was pleased with the results; “We were pleasantly surprised to find that this treatment doesn’t come with the same side effects of traditional intravenous chemotherapy. To see these promising results with so few side effects means we are able to make a positive impact on quality of life for these patients.”
Quality of life
Following a diagnosis of mesothelioma, many patients are faced with a dilemma about treatment. Some choose to only receive palliative care, which will give them limited time, whereas others choose to have chemotherapy treatment, taking the chance that this will shrink their tumour or at least halt the growth, giving them more time, but they may suffer debilitating side effects. To find a treatment that gives more time, without the side effects is hugely positive news for people with mesothelioma.
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“Transarterial Chemoperfusion Treatment of Unresectable Pleural Mesothelioma – Interim Results of a Phase 2 Prospective Study”, Presentation during Society of Interventional Radiology annual conference, https://www.sirmeeting.org/index.cfm?do=abs.viewAbs&abs=543
“Novel treatment for mesothelioma shows promise for patients”, June 14, 2020, Society of Interventional Radiology news release, https://www.sirweb.org/advocacy-and-outreach/media/news-release-archive/sir-2020-mesothelioma-061520/