Those suffering from mesothelioma know that the prognosis is grim. The average life expectancy for someone who is recently diagnosed is only eight months. Chemotherapy is the standard treatment for mesothelioma, but in most cases, the cancer is too far advanced for chemotherapy to be effective. Surgery for mesothelioma is possible but results from surgery can be inconsistent, so it is not a standard treatment. Any type of surgery done on a mesothelioma victim is risky and largely investigatory.
The latest approach in surgical methods to fight mesothelioma is a lung-sparing surgery. Rather than removing an entire lung (pneumonectomy), lung-sparing surgery preserves the lung, and when combined with other treatment and therapies, it appears to extend the lives of those diagnosed. Scientists and researchers at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine are very excited as some patients’ lives were extended up to three years. This operation focuses on just removing the cancer that is detectable and leaving alone any organs and structures where cancer isn’t readily apparent, which helps to improve the quality of life for those diagnosed.
The study involved tracking 73 patients with advanced malignant pleural mesothelioma who all received the lung-sparing surgery. The surgery was then paired with another treatment called photodynamic therapy, a therapeutic method that uses light to kill cancer cells. The overall median survival was close to 35 months. Nineteen of those patients had mesothelioma that had not yet spread to the lymph nodes. Those patients saw the overall survival rate nearly double from 3 years to 7.3 years. The majority of the patients were in the advanced stages of the cancer: Stage III or Stage IV.
As asbestos fibers become airborne, they become easily inhaled and enter into the lungs and reside in the chest cavity. As the fibers work their way into the smallest passageways of the lungs and into the pleura, the body’s natural defenses begin to fail and the mesothelial cells of the pleura become abnormal and divide. Mesothelioma is incurable, but scientists and researchers are especially hopeful after the positive results of the lung-sparing surgery and believe it warrants future investigation.
University of Maryland Medical Center/ School of Medicine, “Lung-Sparing Surgery for Patients with Advanced Mesothelioma Results in Prolonged Survival, New Study Shows,” Science Daily (December 14, 2016). [Link]
Megan Pringle, “New Study May Give Mesothelioma Patients More Time,” WBAL (January 26, 2017). [Link]