It is hard to say exactly how far we are from a cure for mesothelioma, but researchers are optimistic that cancer treatment options currently available can prolong the lives of those diagnosed with mesothelioma to five or 10 years. The key is early detection, and modern treatments including immunotherapy, gene therapy and surgery. For example, an experimental drug known as HRX9 has shown some potential in stopping tumor growth in mice that were injected with malignant mesothelioma cells. It targets a certain gene in the tumor, which kills cancerous cells.
While there is no acknowledged cure for mesothelioma, early detection and a combination of the most promising treatment options currently available may prolong the life expectancy of those who have recently been diagnosed by as much as five to ten years. Depending on the stage your cancer is in at the time of diagnosis, your oncologist may recommend any combination of surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation to remove and/or shrink tumors, prevent them from spreading and ultimately extend your life.
Clinical trials in recently years have provided many new forms of mesothelioma treatment options, including immunotherapy and gene therapy which have the potential to increase the quality of life for mesothelioma sufferers while improving their overall prognosis. Some individuals who have utilized alternative and palliative therapies, including nutritional interventions, have reported striking results which may prove to be highly beneficial over time.
The Traditional Multimodal Approach
Once your mesothelioma has been diagnosed through biopsies, x-rays, CT scans and/or other diagnostic procedures, you and your medical care provider will need to decide on the most appropriate treatment option. Traditional oncologists typically recommend a multimodal approach that involves any or all of the following three methods:
- Palliative Treatment
Surgery. If your mesothelioma has been detected in the earlier stages of development, your doctor may recommend surgical removal of the tumors by removing the lining of your chest wall called the Pleura, lymph nodes, or any other organ where the cancer cells have been located.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs target fast growing cancer cells in the hopes of eliminating them from the body before they spread to distant locations. When surgery is combined with chemotherapy, the prognosis for a mesothelioma patient is improved. Even if your current diagnosis reveals that your cancer is in the later stages of development, you’ll may still be offered chemotherapy treatments.
Radiation. Targeted radiation treatments can shrink mesothelioma tumors, making the treatment suitable for patients preparing to undergo surgery or those whose illness has progressed beyond the point where surgical intervention is reasonable. Sometimes radiation treatments are offered to provide pain relief for patients who are having trouble breathing due to the presence of tumors which interfere with the airways, nerves and/or blood vessels.
Palliative Treatment. Palliative treatment is used to improve a patient’s quality of life rather than attempting to cure mesothelioma. Palliative treatment can be used alone or in conjunction with traditional cancer treatment to reduce pain, and increase a person’s mental wellbeing and physical state.
Immunotherapy Available Through Clinical Trials
Mesothelioma patients who are interested in participating in clinical trials and qualify have the opportunity to utilize some of the most promising new therapies to treat this aggressive form of cancer. Immunotherapy is said to significantly extend the lifespan of many patients who undergo both chemotherapy and immunotherapy simultaneously.
Two types of immunotherapy are under examination; with active therapy, direct stimulation of the body’s immune system is intended to trigger an immune response which results in the immune cells attacking and destroying cancer cells.
Passive treatment options involve the delivery of immune agents into the patient’s body to begin the destruction and removal of dangerous cancer cells.
Gene Therapy and HRX9 Causing Excitement in the Medical Community
Gene therapy attempts to manipulate a person’s genes to prevent tumors from growing by injecting the patient with a modified form of a virus which can target and deliver the appropriate replacement gene to any damaged cells which ultimately could become cancerous. An experimental drug known as HRX9 is said to directly target genes within mesothelioma cells, causing them to self destruct by initiating a process known as apoptosis.
Although the drug has currently only been used in mice injected with malignant human mesothelioma cells, the results are striking; cancer cells stopped growing within the mice after three weeks of treatment with HRX9.
Some Patients Opt for Alternative Mesothelioma Treatments
In cases where patients have been given a poor medical prognosis, alternative treatment options often provide a last ray of hope. Other methods such as acupuncture, yoga, nutritional therapies and more may be used in conjunction with traditional therapies to reduce side effects, although some patients report these methods alone have resulted in long term health improvements beyond what medical science can currently explain.