Traditional mesothelioma treatment methods have followed the medical standard for cancer management—revolving primarily around the Big Cancer Curing Three: surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. However, the last several years have brought advancements in medical science that hold hope to revolutionize the way that cancer is treated. Even extremely aggressive (and rare) forms, like mesothelioma cancer, appear to be at least initially responsive to some alternative treatment methods, according to preliminary clinical trials.
Widespread and ongoing research into cancer treatment modalities is occurring around the world. In the U.S., where more than 3000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year, mesothelioma clinical trials offer the opportunity to try new and experimental treatments before they receive full approval—an opportunity that hundreds of patients are taking advantage of every day.
Traditional mesothelioma treatment methods also continue to be tested, in varying forms and different combinations, with increased success hopefully just beyond the horizon. Combining traditional modalities with newer forms is another option currently in testing, with some limited effectiveness apparent.
Easily the most promising new mesothelioma treatment method, immunotherapy is a highly dynamic and complex field of curative medicine that employs a patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer that is attacking it. There are different forms of immunotherapy, namely vaccine therapy and what is called immune cytokine.
The first type of immunotherapy-focused mesothelioma treatment employs what are called “autologus vaccines,” which are created from proteins in the tumor itself and then injected into the host in an attempt to trigger the production of antibodies.
The second type of immunotherapy being utilized in mesothelioma research and treatment focuses on the introduction of immune cytokines or chemical “messengers” that serve the purpose of controlling certain aspects of the immune system response. Medical science is seeking to develop an effective method of manipulating those so-called “on-off switches” ordered to attack a specific foreign invader within the body (i.e. a tumor).
As of current, the different forms of immunotherapy-focused mesothelioma treatment seem to offer the most promising for increased treatment effectiveness in the coming years. However, it should not be ignored that another key step towards eradicating the almost inevitable terminality of mesothelioma is developing improved methods for early detection.
Currently, most cases of mesothelioma are not diagnosed until the patient has already entered the disease’s advanced stages—specifically, after it has spread to the lymph nodes or even metastasized in other organs. By these later stages, treating the cancer is no longer a localized effort, making effective treatment virtually impossible. For this reason, mesothelioma patients rarely enter remission and are generally deceased within two years of diagnosis.
Improving the likelihood of survival beyond that dismal two-year mark is almost certainly reliant on improved screening methods that will allow for diagnosis of the disease while cancer cells are confined to a single organ, and preferably, before tumors have had a chance to grow beyond the reach of surgical intervention.