Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that attacks human lungs and abdomen. Asbestos exposure has been singled out as the main cause of mesothelioma (Stewart, 2010). This occurs when asbestos become either worn out or damaged and thereafter the tiny particles are released into the air. In the past, asbestos was largely used in the building industry, ship building industry, manufacture of household appliances, motor industry, power stations and telephone exchanges and this explains why most of mesothelioma cases have been reported among men who worked in the above industries or those who were exposed to asbestos products (Murphy, 2010). When human being inhale or swallow the asbestos particles or fibers from the air, they embed in the tissues of the body and cause inflammation of the surrounding area and tissues. The fibers often embed and lodge in the mesothelial lining of vital organs such as lungs and with time, it damages the organs and provides perfect ground for the development of cancerous tumors (Leary, 2012). Although surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy remain as the most common and conventional methods of mesothelioma treatment, there are new and novel treatment options that have been developed or which are currently in development. This paper discusses the latest developments in the treatment of mesothelioma.
Currently there is no cure for mesothelioma but research studies have confirmed that intensive treatment has the potential of extending the duration of survival for patients. In addition, intensive treatment also reduces pain and suffering that is often associated with mesothelioma (Acton, 2011). The increased duration of patients’ survival and reduction of pain has indeed brought impetus and renewed hope into the search for other alternative mesothelioma treatment options. There are a number of new mesothelioma treatments being developed across the globe; thus, giving more hope to mesothelioma patients and victims. The following are some of the latest developments in the treatment of mesothelioma;
a. Radiation Therapy/ Intensity Modulated Therapy (IMT)
Radiation has been one of the conventional mesothelioma treatment options but due to the advancement of technology and intensive research, its use has been enhanced. Mesothelioma treatment with radiation involves the uses of targeted X-rays to destroy cancerous cells so as to slow or prevent the spread of the cancer to other parts of the body and tissues (Seow, 2012). A new radiation therapy known as Intensity Modulated Therapy (IMT) has been developed by radiation oncologists who have been carrying out research on alternative mesothelioma treatment methods. The new treatment method involves the use of high dosage of radiation in mesothelioma treatment, that is, it administers radiation doses to the tumor in a more localized and controlled manner (Murphy, 2010). Research results have shown that patients who have undergone IMT treatment have increased duration of survival without being attacked by mesothelioma and also they have lower chances of being re-attacked or getting back the disease.
For better outcome and to increase the potential of success, high dosage of radiotherapy regiment should be used in concert with other treatment options. Since Intensity Modulated Therapy (IMT) offers radiation doses in more localized and controlled manner, it prevents unwanted damage of normal and healthy cells that surround the cancerous tumors. The main merits of the new radiotherapy treatment are that it suppresses the cancerous cells, has lower side effects and prolonged benefits (Murphy, 2010).
b. Biologic Therapy
Biologic therapy or immunotherapy is one of the new mesothelioma treatment options that are being tested. Immunotherapy relies on the use of special substances (Biological Response Modifiers) in the treatment of mesothelioma by improving the ability of the immune system to fight and eliminate cancer cells from the body of patients (Seow, 2012). Immunotherapy is informed by the fact that research indicates that the improvement of the natural immune system is the most effective measure for preventing diseases. The import of immunotherapy or biological therapy treatment is that it will help to replenish and rejuvenate the immune system of mesothelioma patients and repair other areas of the immune systems that are faulty (Stewart, 2010).
Vaccines are also included under biologic therapy as new treatment for mesothelioma although they are still under development. Taking cognizant of the fact that cancer vaccines do not absolutely protect people from cancer, they can be used as perfect method in the minimization of the use of more and advanced invasive mesothelioma treatments (Leary, 2012). Another latest development in the treatment of mesothelioma with regards to the use of immunotherapy is that research has shown the naturally occurring biological Response Modifiers (BRMs) can now be prepared in the laboratories (Seow, 2012).
c. Gene Therapy
The successful completion of the human genome project has provided more information on genes thereby paving way for gene therapy research. Gene therapy is another latest development in the treatment of mesothelioma that aims at correcting defective genes that might cause cancerous growth or changes (Leary, 2012). This involves correcting or replacing the genes that are either abnormal or damaged. The available types of gene therapy that are currently being used include the replacement gene therapy and knockout gene therapy. The difference between the above two types of gene therapies is that in replacement gene therapy, the genes that are either mutated or missing are replaced while in the knockout gene therapy, the genes that are responsible for the mesothelioma tumors are completely eliminated (Seow, 2012).
d. Photodynamic Therapy
Another latest development in the treatment of mesothelioma is photodynamic therapy. Photodynamic therapy is hinged on the premise that single celled organisms often die when exposed to certain light frequencies. The motive behind the development of photodynamic therapy is that it aims at exposing the cancerous cells to photosensitizing drugs and specific light frequencies (Acton, 2011).
There has been a significant progress in the treatment of mesothelioma in the last decade. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy has significantly played a role in improving the survival rates and reducing pain and suffering of mesothelioma patients. Due to intensified research, new and novel mesothelioma treatments options have been developed and others are still being developed. The latest additions to mesothelioma treatment strategies include intensity modulated therapy, biological therapy or immunotherapy, gene therapy and photodynamic therapy. There is renewed hope that the above latest development in mesothelioma treatment will further improve the outcomes for patients and prevent further progression of the disease. There is need for more intensified research so as to increase survival rates for patients.
Acton, Q. A. (2011). Mesotheliomas: New Insights for the Healthcare Professional: 2011 Edition, ScholarlyBrief. Oxford: ScholarlyEditions.
Leary, A. (2012). Lung Cancer:A Multidisciplinary Approach. London: John Wiley & Sons.
Murphy, C. A. (2010). Mesothelioma Latest: New Mesothelioma Treatment discovered in Australia. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from http://mesoblog.org/blog/new-mesothelioma-treatment-australia/
Seow, B. (2012). New Mesothelioma Treatment Options. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from http://www.gtherapy.co.uk/new-mesothelioma-treatment-options/