Meso Research


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Meso Research

  1. 1. What are the Latest Developments in Research and Treatment related to Malignant Mesothelioma? New research is consistently being undertaken in the field of malignant mesothelioma. Research scientists are trying to identify causes and ways to avoid mesothelioma. Doctors are trying to achieve more accurate diagnosis and improve the effectiveness of treatment. However, despite the recent developments, there is still plenty that needs to be learnt about the effective ways of treating these types of cancers. Causes and prevention A significant percentage of research studies on malignant mesothelioma has focused primarily on finding out how exactly asbestos alters mesothelial cells and modifies their DNA to cause these types of cancers. Understanding how exactly these fibers lead to cancer can help us devise better methods to prevent those changes. The link between asbestos and an increased risk of mesothelioma is an explicit public health concern. Scientists are constantly gathering more information about fibers that lead to cancer, how exactly they cause cancer, and exposure levels that can be considered safe. Since dangers of asbestos have been identified, it is now possible to limit or prevent exposure in homes, workplace, and public buildings. Unfortunately, some countries have less stringent rules and regulations for protecting workers from exposure to asbestos. Research studies are also underway to study the role (if any) of the SV40 virus, which has been associated with mesothelioma in certain specific studies. Treatment
  2. 2. Cancers such as mesothelioma are still difficult to treat, and doctors are continuously making efforts to improve current treatment approaches. The effectiveness of treatment options such as surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy remains highly debatable. Treatment approaches that rely on using a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, are referred to as multimodality therapy. These are currently being studied and it is possible that they may provide the most effective treatment option for some patients. Radiation therapy Mesothelioma, in most cases, does not develop as a well-defined tumor. As a result, doctors find it difficult to use radiation therapy without affecting the neighboring healthy tissues. The use of radiation therapy for treating mesothelioma has thus been limited. Newer techniques of administering radiation, for instance, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and three- dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3DCRT) rely on computers to accurately map tumors and deliver radiation at the right spot. These new techniques have reduced side-effects, allowing doctors to administer increased doses of radiation to the affected area (body part). Chemotherapy There are some chemotherapy drugs that can shrink tumors or slow down their growth. However, the effects usually last only for a short period of time. Many new types of chemotherapy drugs, for instance raltitrexed, are currently being used in clinical trials, along with other treatment protocols.
  3. 3. Research is underway to identify how chemotherapy drugs can be administered directly into the chest or abdominal cavity, immediately after surgery. In certain cases, the drugs may be heated before they are administered in order to increase their effectiveness. Doctors assume that placing the drugs directly onto the tumors increases their effectiveness and also reduces the side- effects that they may have. Photodynamic therapy Another technique that is currently being studied is called photodynamic therapy (PDT). In this treatment procedure, a light- activated drug is administered into a vein. The drug then spreads all throughout the body and collects inside cancer cells. After a few days (generally immediately after surgery for mesothelioma), a tube with a special red light on its end is positioned inside the chest cavity. When the light comes in contact with the drug, it causes a chemical reaction. This activates the drug, which kills the cancer cells. This technique of administering drugs has limited side- effects because the drug is active only in areas that are exposed to the special red light. PDT is being tested and studied for the treatment of mesothelioma in many of the ongoing clinical trials. Targeted drugs Generally, the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs is limited when it comes to treating advanced mesothelioma. With more information now available on modifications in cells that lead to cancer, researchers have been able to develop many new drugs that have the ability to specifically target these changes. Referred to as targeted drugs, these drugs work in a different manner in comparison to standard chemotherapy drugs. Also, these usually have different (and less serious) side-effects.
  4. 4. One specific group of targeted drugs is referred to as angiogenesis inhibitors. They work by targeting the development of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) that tumors need to grow. Among this category, there are some drugs that are already being used for the treatment of other types of cancer. These are now being studied to assess their potential for mesothelioma treatment. A few examples of these drugs would include bevacizumab (Avastin) and sorafenib (Nexavar). Other new drugs currently available use different approaches. For instance, ranpirnase (Onconase) is an enzyme that targets RNA (a part of the genetic material of a cell) and destroys cancer cells at the right time. There is evidence (gathered from some early studies) that these drugs have helped some mesothelioma patients to live longer. Other larger clinical trials are being undertaken currently. Other types of targeted drugs currently being studied in mesothelioma clinical trials include the following: • Imatinib (Gleevec) • Erlotinib (Tarceva) • Dasatinib (Sprycel) • Bortezomib (Velcade) • Sunitinib (Sutent) • Vorinostat (Zolinza) Gene therapy Gene therapy is one of the latest approaches being used in the treatment of mesothelioma. This technique seeks to replace or repair the defective genes present in cancerous cells. A particular approach to gene therapy relies on special viruses which have undergone modifications in the lab. The virus used in this
  5. 5. technique is introduced in the pleural space, thereby infecting the mesothelioma cells. Once the infection happens, the virus introduces the desired gene inside the cells. Gene therapy and research related to it is still in its early stages.