From the blog

Carbon Ion Radiation Therapy for Mesothelioma

Published: January 27, 2023

A specific type of radiation could be useful for the treatment of mesothelioma. Carbon-ion beam irradiation along with the chemotherapy drug cisplatin could potentially stop the growth of pleural mesothelioma tumors. Research was conducted at a carbon ion center in Chiba, Japan and results have been published to the American Journal of Cancer Research. Carbon ion beam irradiation has been used in multiple cancers for the past 30 years. It utilizes a particle accelerator to hit tumors with DNA damaging carbon ions. It can be more beneficial because there is a lower risk of hurting healthy tissue that surrounds tumors.

Carbon ion irradiation could be great for mesothelioma patients because mesothelioma tumors grow near vital organs like the lungs and heart. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the membrane that surrounds different areas of the body including the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles. The main cause of mesothelioma is asbestos, which is easily inhaled or ingested. Once the microscopic fibers enter the body, they become lodged in tissue, where they cannot be broken down and removed by the body. It can take decades for someone to be diagnosed with mesothelioma after exposure.

Researchers in the study compared results of patients treated with carbon-ion beam irradiation given to patients alone and with cisplatin. Cisplatin is a platinum-based chemotherapy drug used for multiple cancers including mesothelioma. When tumors were only given carbon-ion beam irradiation, they had 90 percent less growth than untreated tumors and started to grow again after 17 weeks. When the carbon beam irradiation was combined with cisplatin, the tumors stopped growing and shrank in size. After a few weeks the tumors would start to grow again, so the researchers increased the amount of radiation and cisplatin and had regression of the tumor and no regrowth.

People in the United States cannot receive carbon ion therapy because cancer centers in the country do not currently use it. Only 13 centers in a total of five countries utilize the therapy for treating cancer. The first heavy ion accelerator for clinical therapeutical use was opened in 1994 in Chiba, Japan and since then, more than 20,000 patients have been treated with the therapy. The main use of the therapy has been prostate cancer (22 percent), bone and soft tissue cancers (13 percent), and head and neck cancers (11 percent). The therapy could be beneficial for mesothelioma patients even though it is not approved for the treatment of the disease currently. More studies need to be completed and if the results are good enough, carbon ion radiation therapy could be one of the tools used in the fight against mesothelioma.

Sei Sai et al., “Carbon-ion beam irradiation in combination with cisplatin effectively suppresses xenografted malignant pleural mesothelioma” American Journal of Cancer Research (2022). [Link]
Timothy D. Malouff et al., “Carbon Ion Therapy: A Modern Review of an Emerging Technology” Frontiers in Oncology (February 4, 2020). [Link]
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