Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The most common type is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs. There are many effective treatments available for patients with this cancer, which reduce symptoms and prolong survival. Unfortunately, treatments for the second most common type, peritoneal mesothelioma are not as effective. This cancer affects the lining of the abdomen and accounts for between 10 and 20% of all diagnoses of mesothelioma.

New study provides hope

A new study published in Annals of Surgical Oncology offers hope to peritoneal mesothelioma patients. Researchers looked at over 110 patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. The aim of the study was to determine the time and predictors for mesothelioma reoccurrence when patients had been optimally treated.

Patients first had a cytoreduction and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), followed by a multicycle adjuvant chemotherapy routine.

Cytoreduction is a surgical procedure where tumours are removed. It is often paired with HIPEC. HIPEC is a procedure that involves circulating a heated solution mixed with chemotherapy drugs around the abdomen for up to two hours. Following these procedures, patients normally spend around two weeks in hospital.

Following recovery from the cytoreduction and HIPEC – generally around five to six months later – the patients underwent an exploratory laparotomy. During a laparotomy the abdomen is opened and the organs are examined. If any tumour growth was found, a further cytoreduction and HIPEC was done. If these was no further tumour growth, just a HIPEC took place.

The findings

The researchers found that 46% of patients did not need a second cytoreduction surgery. All of the patients were monitored. They had an abdomen, chest, and pelvic CT scan every six months. Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in recurrence-free survival between the 46% of patients who did not need a second surgery and 54% who did. Furthermore, the median recurrence-free survival was 38.5 months – much longer than the peritoneal mesothelioma rate has ever been.

This is promising news for peritoneal mesothelioma patients. From the study, it would appear that this diagnosis is no longer the imminent death sentence it was. People can now survive for more than three years with the disease.

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