Mesothelioma Treatments

Mesothelioma Research

Cancer can attack any tissue in the body, and has been around at least as long as vertebrate life itself; paleontologists have discovered evidence of bone cancer in dinosaur fossils.

Mesothelioma has probably been around as long as any other form of cancer, but was only identified as a form of cancer separate from that of the lung in the late 1950s. Although one of the deadliest and most painful forms of cancer, mesothelioma is still comparatively rare; it is usually caused by exposure to two specific types of "hard" asbestos - crocidolite and amosite - that were never as widely used as the "white" variety shown to cause asbestosis, and not everyone who is exposed to asbestos develops a disease.

Because it is a rare form of cancer, mesothelioma receives far less attention from the medical establishment - as well as research funding.

With changes in government and more Americans being fed up with their dysfunctional profit-driven health care system demanding change, we are slowly seeing more attention being paid to this disease, particularly when it comes to veterans of the Maritime Services (Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine). Naval and commercial vessels were full of asbestos for decades, and such veterans as well as former shipyard workers suffer unusually high rates of mesothelioma. offers a complimentary information packet that covers mesothelioma research and other important subjects relating to this rare cancer, such as treatment options and the nation's top doctors. Simply fill out the form on this page to receive a free copy in the mail.

Primary Areas of Research

Mesothelioma research is currently carried out in five areas:

  • Drug and Chemotherapy: Most research is being done in these areas, and drug and chemotherapies are usually the first course of treatment
  • Radiation Therapy: The problem here is that what kills cancer cells will usually kill healthy cells as well, so ways to mitigate this "collateral damage" are constantly being explored.
  • Gene Therapy: Use of the immune system in combating cancer is tricky, because the body's immune system does not identify cancer cells as pathogens, since they are created from the body's own cells. Gene therapy suggests that anti-bodies can be "trained" to attack cancer cells however, using bio-engineered viruses.
  • Early Detection: Recent advances in diagnostic medicine has made it possible to identify signs of mesothelioma in the blood - known as biomarkers - at a much earlier stage, when the disease can be stopped in its tracks.
  • Alternative Therapies: These unfortunately receive little attention in the U.S., where the health care system is largely privatized and profit-driven. The reason is that many of these alternative therapies cannot be patented or copyrighted; therefore, there is no incentive for the private sector to even consider them. Such therapies are being seriously studied in other industrialized countries, however.

Clinical Trials

In order to win approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration, any kind of clinical treatment must undergo a three phase process:

  • Phase I: Researchers must study the proposed treatment very carefully and determine how it is to be used.
  • Phase II: This stage focuses the proposed treatment on a specific disease or variety of a disease and the mechanics of the treatment when applied. It is at this point that risks to the patient are considered.
  • Phase III: Once the treatment has been proven successful, it is then compared to current standard treatments for effectiveness.
  • Assuming that the new treatment passes all three phases of the clinical trial, it is then submitted to the FDA for final approval.

Current Mesothelioma Research

In recent studies have revealed the mechanical aspects of how mesothelioma develops. Knowledge of these mechanisms may lead to more effective treatments, if not an outright cure.

One of these was conducted at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. According to the study, prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers causes them to interact with a naturally-occurring biochemical substance known as Nalp3, a type of protein that is associated with the release of interleukins, molecules that signal the body's defenses and cause inflammation. The resulting inflammation is chronic and ultimately causes cells to mutate into a malignant form. Although the connection had been established, the exact process by which this transformation takes place was still not completely understood.

An Ohio State University study carried this research one step further several months later. By using a form of microscopy called atomic force - something that one of the co-authors of the report described as "Braille on a molecular level" - the researchers were able to observe how asbestos fibers form a chemical bond with a particular receptor protein on cellular surfaces. Evidence from this study suggests that this chemical bonding triggers a series of events that ultimately cause the cells to mutate into a malignant form.

Steven Lower, a geologist and faculty member who contributed to the study, said, "There seems to be something intrinsic about certain types of asbestos, blue asbestos in particular, that elicits a unique triggers inflammation, the formation of pre-malignant cells and ultimately, cancer."

When it comes to early detection - a key factor when it comes to successful treatment - the most exciting development has come from a Japanese biotech company called Fujirebio Diagnostics, Inc. Called MESOMARKTM, it is a relatively simple blood test that reveals the biological signs, or protein "markers" that indicate the presence malignant mesothelioma and may provide indications of the disease's stage (according to the FDA, the effectiveness of the test's performance has not been definitely established). The MESOMARKTM Assay was approved by the FDA for use in the U.S. under the Humanitarian Device Exemption program in January 2007.

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