More than 10 million people were exposed to asbestos between the 1940s and 1970s, which means there are millions of Americans who are potentially at risk of developing mesothelioma in the coming months and years. Thankfully, we’re seeing some advancements in medical treatment technology. But will we find a solution that’s safe and effective before it’s too late?
Three Technologies to Keep an Eye On
The problem with mesothelioma is that there’s a lengthy latency period of 20 to 50 years, which means people don’t begin experiencing symptoms until decades after their exposure to asbestos. As a result, the medical community has gotten a late start on treatment. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that 2,000 to 3,000 people are diagnosed annually. With all of that being said, new technologies and procedures are emerging on a regular basis. Here are a few to watch:
One of the newest treatments is Altima. This cancer chemotherapy drug is supposed to increase the length of survival for mesothelioma patients at various stages, while also reducing symptoms. The Altima clinical trials were some of the largest documented treatments for mesothelioma in the past decade and results have been reviewed by governing bodies like the American Society of Clinical Oncologists.
Altima is FDA approved and is typically administered every three weeks during cancer treatment therapy. It’s also used for esophageal cancer and other similar forms of cancer. The long-term results of Altima-based treatment remain to be seen.
- Photodynamic Therapy
Photodynamic therapy once had a lot of promise but hasn’t yet produced the results the medical community initially hoped for. The therapy uses a drug that makes cancer cells super sensitive to a certain wavelength of light, which is then used in surgery to destroy the cells without damaging other tissue.
“The therapy can only be used on superficial parts of the body; it cannot safely be used deep in the chest or abdominal cavity,” explains Bergman Draper Ladenburg, a leader in the legal fight against mesothelioma. “Still, it is hoped that photodynamic therapy will be useful for the treatment of mesothelioma after a tumor has been surgically removed.”
- Other New Developments
There are plenty of other developments that haven’t yet become mainstream, including a new treatment developed by a team of scientists at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. The treatment has been shown to block the development of mesothelioma tumors in 60 to 80 percent of cases.
“We think the compound could be used through a puffer or a nebuliser, just like those used with asthma, where it could either prevent the fibres taking hold in people exposed to asbestos, or improve the condition for people suffering now,” says Tony George, one of the lead researchers.
The scientists are applying for a patent and hoping to connect with a pharmaceutical company to bring the treatment to market in just a few years.
When Will We Find an Effective Treatment?
We’re still waiting for an effective treatment for mesothelioma, but progress is being made. While no single treatment is believed to be effective on its own, research has shown that multimodal therapy leads to a median survival of 26 months. Multimodal therapy is an approach that combines two or more of the following treatment categories: surgery, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, or radiation.
The hope, obviously, is that we’ll one day find a treatment that doesn’t just slow down the progression of this terrible disease, but also stops and reverses it. The good news, though, is that the US is the leader in terms of the number of clinical trials conducted for mesothelioma.