Study Shows Mesothelioma Patients Fare Best with Chemotherapy

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A new research study penned by a variety of doctors at several different institutions, designed to investigate mesothelioma patient characteristics, treatment patterns, and overall survival (OS), concluded that patients receiving some sort of chemotherapy treatment survived longer than those who did not, regardless of whether or not they undergo surgical resection.

Mesothelioma Patients Fare Best with ChemotherapyThe study, entitled Mesothelioma in the United States: a Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)–Medicare investigation of treatment patterns and overall survival, was authored by doctors and scientists from the Department of Oncology of Wayne State University School of Medicine, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute (Detroit), EpidStat Institute (Ann Arbor), and drug company AstraZeneca.

The research involved patients who had been diagnosed with either pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2009 with follow-up for survival through the end of the following year.

The authors examined patient and tumor characteristics at time of diagnosis and the treatment patterns that followed, which included radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery for resection purposes.

In all, 1,625 patients were included in the study.

The median age of those patients at time of diagnosis was 78, which is slightly above the national average but not unusual, given that most current mesothelioma patients were exposed to asbestos as much as 40 or 50 years ago, when they were young tradespeople.

About a third of the patients in the study underwent surgery as part of their treatment and about 45 percent were prescribed chemotherapy as part of their treatment regimen.

The median OS for the entire group was 8 months.

However, doctors discovered that among those who received first-line chemotherapy treatment with Alimta™ (pemetrexed) and cisplatin or carboplatin and were then re-treated with the same combination of drugs or with the older chemo drug gemcitabine, enjoyed an OS of an additional 5 months.

These numbers were irrespective of surgical resection. In other words, even those who didn’t have surgery such as a pleurectomy or pneumonectomy were apt to survive longer when re-treated with chemo.

To many, an extra five months seems negligible, but to the mesothelioma sufferer and his family, it’s a large amount of time.

Little progress has been seen over the years in regards to strengthening the prognosis for mesothelioma patients, so each baby step is an important one and helps researchers continue to try to develop treatments that will produce even better results.

Longer survival also means that patients may be able to actively participate in any legal action they forge against those who are responsible for their disease.

This might include giving depositions and providing other pertinent information for their case. In many instances, unfortunately, the plaintiff passes away before any settlement is reached. Doctors are hoping that may someday change as new and novel treatments, like immunotherapy, continue to be developed.