Friday, October 19, 2007

Mesothelioma treatment

Mesothelioma treatments have thus far been unable to limit the spread of the deadly cancer. Treatments for mesothelioma are divided into two categories; traditional mesothelioma treatments and new mesothelioma treatments.

Traditional mesothelioma treatments are the same as those used to treat most other cancers, and include:

* Surgery
* Chemotherapy
* Radiation therapy (radiotherapy)
Traditional mesothelioma treatments are often used in conjunction with one another in effort to provide the most thorough and effective method of treatment. For example, trimodality therapy combines all three traditional methods of treatment, where chemotherapy is administered first with the aim of slowing the growth of malignant mesothelioma. Chemotherapy treatments are followed by surgery designed to physically remove a mesothelioma tumor mass (extrapleural pneumonectomy is often performed as part of trimodality therapy). Postoperative radiation therapy is used for the final step, to target any lingering mesothelioma cells. Although trimodality therapy has been unable to eradicate malignant mesothelioma, it has proven to be effective in significantly prolonging patients’ survival time by as much as five years (the average post-diagnosis survival time is one to two years).
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New mesothelioma treatments have been researched and developed with the hope of succeeding where traditional methods have not. Mesothelioma researchers are optimistic that new mesothelioma treatment modalities will eventually prove to be successful, though they have yet to yield results that are any better than traditional methods.
New treatments for mesothelioma include:

* Development of new chemotherapy agents
* Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
* Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
* Immunotherapy
* Gene therapy

The progression of mesothelioma, as with other cancerous diseases, is typically broken into stages, with the treatment options based on the stage of the disease. The commonly used staging for mesothelioma is the Brigham staging system and it is described as follows.
Stages of Mesothelioma

Stage 1 occurs when the tumor lies completely within the capsule of the pleura, without swollen lymph nodes (adenopathy).

Stage 2 has the characteristics of Stage 1, where the tumor has spread and there is presence of adenopathy. But in Stage 2 the boundaries of the tumor allow for a resection (removal of the tumor) without cutting into other organs.

Stage 3 includes extension of the disease into the chest wall or into the heart, through the diaphragm or peritoneum, or outside the pleura to involve the lymph nodes.

Stage 4 occurs when the cancer has formed in distant organs through metastases.

Treatment options for the management of malignant mesothelioma include:

* chemotherapy
* surgery
* radiation
* multimodality treatment

However, none of the treatment strategies have been shown to be particularly effective against the disease.