New Study Finds Mesothelioma Survival Rates More Than Doubled with Pre-Surgery Radiation

The results of a clinical research program indicate that mesothelioma patients who are treated with radiation before surgery experience a three-year survival rate that more than doubles that of other participants in the same study.  The findings were published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology and suggest that administering treatment in that sequence will yield a better quality of life and higher survival rate for mesothelioma patients.  The main author is Dr. John Cho, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation at the University of Toronto, and also a radiation Oncologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Center.

Mesothelioma Study

The study was completed over four years and involved 25 patients.  After receiving radiation, the patients completed surgery the following week.  According to Dr. Cho, patients who received radiation before their surgery “experienced shorter treatment, fewer complications and speedier recovery” and also increased their three-year survival rate from 32% to 72%.  Dr. Cho has dubbed this new process of completing radiation before surgery as SMART – Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy.  The patients were treated with intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) as part of a five-day course that is accelerated compared to traditional treatment methods.

In addition to the higher survival rate, patients reduce their entire treatment cycle from five months to one month using the SMART approach.  Another author of the study, Dr. Marc de Perrot, highlighted the fact that the SMART approach reduces the risk of recurrence because the cancer is unable to seed itself in other parts of the chest during surgery due to the initial radiation treatment.  Dr. Perrot believes that his research “offers real hope” to patients who have “too often been told that they may have only six months to live” because the shortened diagnostic and treatment cycle allows doctors to treat and control the disease much more effectively.

With this new and improved treatment method, Drs. Cho and de Perrot expressed the need for better diagnostic methods.  The point at which most mesothelioma patients seek specialist care – after a chest X-Ray shows a plural effusion (a white shadow covering half the lung) – may be too late to effectively treat some cases of mesothelioma.  However, the SMART method’s accelerated treatment cycle gives new hope to mesothelioma patients; since the study, Drs. Cho and de Perrot have successfully treated an additional 20 patients.

The landscape for new mesothelioma treatments looks very promising.  In addition to the SMART method, there are two groundbreaking studies currently being conducted at the University Leicester.  The first involves testing a new drug called ganetespib that may be able to prevent mesothelioma tumors by inhibiting a protein in cells called heat shock protein 90 that stabilizes other proteins necessary for tumor growth.  The professors working on the trial are hopeful that ganetespib can improve symptoms for patients.

The second trial is actually global in scale and named COMMAND, which stands for Control of Mesothelioma with Maintenance Defactinib, and is sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Verastem.  This study aims to explore the potency of a drug called defactinib that has the potential to inhibit a component that causes cancer stem cells to develop into tumors.  In all, the trial is taking place with approximately 350-400 mesothelioma survival patients across the world.



















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