Mesothelioma Treatments Under Investigation
Continued from: Mesothelioma Trials
All types of malignant cancers, including mesothelioma, cause damage through the rapid expansion of tumors. These tumors essentially attack and cripple the organs where they originate and then metastasize and invade other organs. Anti-cancer drugs all are designed to stop the spread of cancer by eliminating or slowing the rapid growth of the cancerous tumors. These anti-cancer drugs fall into several categories and stop the growth of mesothelioma cancer cells in a variety of ways.
When cancer cells (or any other types of cells) multiply, DNA duplicates and creates new DNA for the "daughter" cancer cells. The new DNA "tells" the cells how to function, and when the new cells are created a whole new set of identical DNA is carried to the new cell. This cell multiplication process is normally very orderly in non-cancerous or benign cells, but when cancer is present, this cell multiplication is rapid and uncontrolled.
Most cancer drugs are designed to stop the DNA from duplicating, which stops the cancer cells from multiplying. Drugs can disrupt the DNA in a variety of ways. This includes drugs that directly damage the DNA, such as alkylating agents like cisplantin, which is a platinum compound. Alkylating agents are the most widely used cancer drugs.
Cell growth and DNA synthesis can be targeted through antimetabolite drugs, such as Alimta, which blocks nutrition from getting to the DNA and stops the metabolism needed for the DNA to grow (or synthesize). Another type of drug indirectly targets the DNA by blocking the hormones, such as estrogen, that "feed" the cancer cells. Tamoxifen is one example of this type of estrogen-blocking drug.
No single drug has been found to be effective in treating mesothelioma. A variety of single agents have been tested in clinical trials including, Platinol, paraplantin, eloxatin, raltitexed, methotrexate and ranpirnase. Response rates to these single agents have usually been 20 percent or less, with a median survival rate of only 6 months.
Although no single agent for the treatment of mesothelioma has been approved by the FDA, doctors have used Platinol as the primary treatment. Platinol was the gold standard for mesothelioma treatment until the recent Phase III clinical trial of Alimta combined with Platinol. The FDA reviewed the results, and this combination is now the only FDA approved drug treatment for mesothelioma.
» Combining Treatments and Clinical Trials
[Page updated August 2009]