Advances in mesothelioma treatment are occurring at an exciting and hope-inspiring rate in recent years, with increased prevalence of the disease resulting in increased attention from the medical community and advocacy groups alike. A combination of new and improving screening methods to aid in the diagnostic process and revolutionary forms of cancer treatment methods have, together, brought researchers to a pivotal crux of the mesothelioma battle.
Advancing the Diagnostic Process to Improve Opportunity for Mesothelioma Treatment
It has been a long-held belief of doctors that mesothelioma is a difficult to diagnose form of cancer, which has led to most diagnosed cases being late-stage and therefore difficult to treat. As such, it has been widely concluded that much of the battle towards beating mesothelioma will be won in the form of improved diagnostic methods and early screening opportunities.
Through mesothelioma clinical trials and the dedicated efforts of researchers at leading cancer treatment facilities like M.D. Anderson Center in Houston, TX, two new blood tests are being developed to screen those with mesothelioma risk factors for the early presence of the disease. The tests are designed to look for two different things that are known to occur at heightened levels in those affected by mesothelioma. The first is a type of protein produced within the bones, called osteopontin, and the second is the serum mesothelin-related peptide (or SMRP, for short).
New and Improved Mesothelioma Treatment Modalities
Once a diagnosis has been reached, the most popular forms of treatment – often used in conjunction – are surgery, removing the tumor and affected areas surrounding it, and either chemotherapy or a form of radiation therapy, used to kill cancer cells. Historically, a successful surgery followed by a round of either chemo or radiation, aimed at eradicating any remaining malignant cells, has been the golden standard of mesothelioma treatment.
Achieving that standard, however, generally requires that the patient not have advanced beyond the first stage of cancer – meaning that the malignancy is restricted to one, singular part of the body and has not spread to the lymph nodes or beyond.
For later stage or otherwise more difficult to treat cases, additional mesothelioma treatment options are currently in the development stage.
One such alternative option involves gene therapy, used to reduce overproduction of a protein called mesothelin. Scientists have uncovered a link between the excessive production of this protein and the growth and spread of mesothelioma, as well as other cancers. By injecting patients with a synthetic gene aimed at halting that production, researchers hope to slow spread and advancement of the disease and also improve the effects of simultaneously administered chemotherapy.
Other types of alternative treatment that are currently in development and have seemed to show some promise in the future of treatment for aggressive cancers like mesothelioma include immunotherapy and enzyme therapy.