Searching for New Options to Treat Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a cancer that strikes at the membrane surrounding and protecting the lungs, heart and abdomen. Mesothelioma is an unusually aggressive malignancy that resists treatment.
Exposure to asbestos causes mesothelioma. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was used in many products, including insulation, joint compound and other construction materials, as well as brake linings and clutches, for many decades.
Inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers penetrate tissue like needles and are tough to dislodge. Mesothelioma typically occurs between 10 and 40 years after exposure to asbestos. Because so much time passes from exposure to onset, the link between the two is not always obvious.
Current treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, or a combination of these. A number of mesothelioma doctors are engaged in ongoing research to develop better treatments and improve survival outcomes.
Five ground-breaking researchers
1. Dr. Harvey Pass
At the NYU Langone Medical Center, Dr. Pass
is studying blood markers that might be vital to the early detection and treatment of mesothelioma. Previous work by Dr. Pass found high levels of a key protein in the serum and plasma of pleural mesothelioma patients. This protein also was collected through simple, noninvasive blood tests.
2. Dr. David Sugarbaker
Credited with developing the trimodal treatment of pleural mesothelioma (radical surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation), Dr. Sugarbaker
continues to advance these efforts and improve survival rates. His work as director of the Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas includes exploration of ways to tailor existing mesothelioma drugs so they can be more effective for individualized patients. Dr. Sugarbaker, who also is Baylor’s chief of general thoracic surgery, also studies mutated genes to better understand why treatments work for some patients and not others.
3. Dr. Katharine CarterAt the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, Dr. Carter is examining the use of an inhaler, or nebulizer, to deliver the mesothelioma chemotherapy drug cisplatin to patients. Delivery by inhaler would be a notable improvement over the current practice of injecting cisplatin. The current practice has debilitating side effects.
4. Dr. Parkash GillDr. Gill and his colleagues at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles have been studying the potential of receptor tyrosine kinase EphB4 as an agent against novel tumor target EphrinB2, a ligand. After testing, the data presented suggest that mesothelioma should be a target disease in clinical investigation of this novel therapy. Dr. Gill is a professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology and Pathology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.
5. Dr. Joachim Aerts At Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, Dr. Aerts is studying dendritic cell-dependent immunotherapy. This uses a vaccine that harnesses the body’s own immune system to target and destroy mesothelioma cells. A recent, small-scale study of the DC vaccine showed promise.