Mesothelioma chemotherapy uses chemical substances to treat the fatal cancer called malignant mesothelioma. Although there are a number of mesothelioma treatment options available, none have yet to be successful in combating the disease. Mesothelioma chemotherapy falls into two categories; traditional mesothelioma and new mesothelioma treatments.
Chemotherapy has been used in the treatment of cancer since the early 1940s; however, scientific advancements and greater understanding of the nature of disease have allowed for continued research and development of newly targeted chemotherapy agents. Chemotherapy treatments are most effective when dealing with relatively "young"cancer cells that have not yet formed a solid tumor mass; it is extremely difficult for chemotherapy drugs to permeate a solid tumor mass.
There are a number of mesothelioma chemotherapy drugs being used in the treatment of the rare cancer; however, none have been able to provide a successful treatment for malignant mesothelioma. Like standard chemotherapy agents, most mesothelioma chemotherapy drugs work by impairing cell division or initiating programmed cellular death (apoptosis). For example, anti-angiogenesis mesothelioma chemotherapy drugs inhibit the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), preventing tumors from establishing a pathway through which to receive the nutrients and oxygen required for metastasis (tumor growth and spread).
One of the more traditional chemotherapy drugs used for the treatment of malignant mesothelioma is cisplatin. Cisplatin is a platinum-based drug type that is part of a family of three similar drugs (others include carboplatin and oxaliplatin). Cisplatin cross links DNA in a number of ways, preventing rapidly dividing cells from duplicating their DNA to accommodate further cell division. Today, cisplatin is often used in conjunction with some of the newer types of chemotherapy drugs like Alimta (pemetrexed), Onconase (ranpirnase) and/or Veglin.
Mesothelioma chemotherapy treatments are not always used with curative intent. Some of the more common mesothelioma treatment types include:
- Combined modality chemotherapy: mesothelioma chemotherapy is often used in conjunction with other treatment types such as radiation therapy or surgery. For example, trimodality therapy involves the utilization of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery.
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
- Neoadjuvant chemotherapy: otherwise referred to as preoperative chemotherapy, neoadjuvant chemotherapy is used with the intent to reduce the size of a tumor mass prior to surgical treatment.
- Adjuvant chemotherapy: otherwise referred to as postoperative chemotherapy, adjuvant chemotherapy is used after surgical treatment if there is a risk of cancer recurrence.
- Palliative chemotherapy: mesothelioma chemotherapy that is used to treat symptoms of the disease as opposed to providing a curative solution is a palliative technique.
A patient's chemotherapy dosage varies based on their body surface area (BSA), an approximation that helps to determine body volume. Such a dosage strategy is designed to provide the perfect balance of chemotherapy treatment while avoiding any toxic side-effects.
Mesothelioma chemotherapy regimens are physically and mentally exhausting for patients. Continuous chemical treatments take their toll in a variety of ways, some of which include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hair loss
- Lowered number of red blood cells (anemia)
- Secondary neoplasm
- Weakened immune system
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
Depending on the patient and the severity of their disease, chemotherapy treatments can be administered on both an in-patient and out-patient basis.
Drugs in use: