After you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you’re probably eager to talk to your doctor about the best mesothelioma treatment options. That’s understandable, but it’s also important to remember that not all patients respond the same way to individual treatments. Surgery may sound attractive because of its ability to remove so much abnormal tissue, but not all people make good candidates for these operations. In these cases, chemotherapy may be the way to go.
However, standard chemotherapy combination treatments of pemetrexed and cisplatin extend the average survival time by only a year. Clearly, patients need more effective choices.
One team of scientists from Sweden suggested that different types of tumor cells are more sensitive to specific medications, and that it may be beneficial to approach patients like you in a fashion that’s more tailored to you and your condition.
The researchers also revealed that two experimental medications may be more beneficial than current, standard mesothelioma treatment.
Do other drugs work?
The typical chemotherapy regimen for mesothelioma patients is the combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin. While this may increase survival time, only about 40 percent of patients respond to it.
In an effort to find better approaches, researchers around the world are taking a closer look at other drugs, such as carboplatin, doxorubicin and gemcitabine.
The Swedish scientists pointed out that it’s important to consider what type of mesothelioma a patient has. The American Society of Clinical Oncology lists three types of mesothelioma:
- Epithelioid. This tends to grow more slowly, and affects 70 percent of patients.
- Sarcomatoid. This is more resistant to chemotherapy than epithelioid, and accounts for 7 to 20 percent of cases.
- Biphasic. These tumor types include both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells.
To find out how different types of mesothelioma respond to specific drugs, the research team conducted a series of experiments that treated mesothelioma models with carboplatin, pemetrexed, doxorubicin or gemcitabine. Additionally, the scientists experimented with selenite and bortezomib, which are two types of experimental mesothelioma treatment.
The scientists discovered that selenite, when given by itself, was effective against four out of six mesothelioma models, particularly the epithelioid and biphasic types. Furthermore, the combination of selenite and bortezomib was more powerful than the other, more typical treatments. This may be because both drugs attack cancer cells differently than the standard drugs. The researchers said this gives scientists a good reason to conduct more experiments on these newer medications.
The researchers also demonstrated that individual cell types really are sensitive to different drugs. If scientists can find more evidence to back up this claim, future mesothelioma treatment may involve collecting tumor cell samples, looking at them in a lab and figuring out which medications work the best against them.