Occupational Exposure in the Military, PART VI: Mesothelioma Clinical Trials Offer Treatment Hope for Veterans

It is a fact that, amongst U.S. veterans that served between the 1930s and 1970s, mesothelioma rates are disturbingly high. In detail, today’s vets make up about 30 percent of all diagnosed cases. That’s as many as 1000 veterans diagnosed with a rare, aggressive and terminal cancer each year. Sadly, many of these victims survived combat-sometimes through multiple deployments-only to be fatally wounded back on domestic soil by toxic asbestos exposure.

Treating mesothelioma is a difficult and often futile mission, compounding the tragedy of military exposure. But, as we touched on in part V of our guide, new and improved methods of treatment are constantly being researched, developed and tested in cancer treatment centers all over the U.S.

This final installation of our six-part guide for victims of military-based asbestos exposure looks at clinical trials and the opportunities they afford while also covering safety concerns, enrollment options and more.

Because conventional cancer treatment methods often prove insufficient for combating mesothelioma, clinical trials can offer the best opportunity for effective healing and even possible remission. These studies, aimed at providing data and feedback to medical researchers, are open to eligible human participants for the purpose of testing out new and experimental treatment modalities-including drugs, vaccinations and beyond. Trials are also conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of newly developed screening tests and preventative measures aimed at the disease.

Cancer treatment centers around the country-even around the world-conduct mesothelioma clinical trials-many at a rate of multiple studies per calendar year. Some of the most promising new mesothelioma treatment methods being tested in recent and ongoing trials include photodynamic therapy, immunology-based types of viral response treatments, enzyme-blocking drug therapies and more.

Getting into mesothelioma clinical trials can sometimes be a challenge. Smaller scale studies may only have room for 50 or fewer participants, and all trials have specific parameters for admitting those participants-meaning that researchers define and outline certain required characteristics for recruits, including age, type and severity or stage of illness, etc. Your physician can help you determine which trials you may be eligible for and determine whether enrollment for is open.

The good news is that there are constantly active mesothelioma clinical trials being conducted, each one recruiting new participants on a revolving basis. Many different opportunities for enrollment are available to ill veterans, though there is a good chance that some travel will be involved in order to participate.

Some mesothelioma veterans express concerns about the safety of participating in a medical trial. Fortunately, these types of studies are conducted under strict ethical guidelines and with stringent supervision by highly qualified medical professionals. Additionally, because mesothelioma is a terminal condition, taking the risk of undergoing an experimental treatment method is generally weighed differently than in cases of conventionally treatable conditions.