Cancer research and development is an ongoing process. In the field of mesothelioma treatment, researchers are focusing on improving traditional treatments as well as developing new techniques to ease the pain of patients. New chemotherapy agents and combination's are now giving new hope to mesothelioma patients and are increasing the survival rate amongst them. Several recent advances have improved diagnosis and treatment of this incurable disease. Hoping for a cure in the near future is therefore not something surreal.
Computer tomography scans are not only a diagnostic tool in mesothelioma treatment. CT Scans now enable the surgical team to accurately determine the position of tumors in the anatomy of the patient. This enables cytoreduction to be more effective. Adequate cytoreduction is an essential prerequisite to improving the survival chances of the patient. The greater the number of tumor cells that are removed, the less is the chances that the cancer grows and propagates.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
Photodynamic Therapy is one of the latest mesothelioma treatments being researched. PDT makes use of a photosensitizer. This is a drug that produces active oxygen when exposed to a certain wavelength of light. Active oxygen destroys all nearby cells. When the patient is treated with the photosensitizer (e.g. with porfimer sodium), the drug invades the whole body. However, by the very nature of the molecule, it remains attached to cancer cells for a longer period. Hence, after a period of 24-72 hours, when the agent has been removed from the normal cells, the tumor is exposed to light (usually a laser transmitted to the tissue by a fiber optic cable carried by an endoscope). Active oxygen destroys the tumor cells directly with minimal damage to normal cells. PDT also helps to shrink tumors indirectly by destroying the blood vessels that supply tumors and activating the immune system to fight the tumor.
The advantage of PDT is that it can be used repetitively with much less side effects than other treatments. The main drawback is that the light usually cannot reach tumor cells that are more than 1 cm deep. Hence, PDT is most effective in skin cancers and cancers found in the lining of internal organs or cavities. Fortunately, mesothelioma falls in this category.
Angiogenesis refers to the development of new blood vessels. Blood vessels are a critical factor in the growth of tumors. All malignant tumors develop their own vascular system that carries nutrients from the bloodstream to the tumor, fuelling its growth. Controlling the development of these vascular systems has been an important strategy in the fight against mesothelioma cancer. Angiogenesis inhibitors are drugs that block angiogenesis. This cuts off the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the tumor whose growth immediately halts.
The advantage of angiogenesis inhibitors is that they are not as toxic as most other chemotherapy drugs. They can thus be given continuously to the patient and are thus more effective in fighting the cancer. An example of an anti-angiogenesis drug under clinical trial for mesothelioma is bevacizumab (Avastin).
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