New Tool May Help Doctors Better Predict Mesothelioma Survival

You go to the mesothelioma clinic because you’re showing symptoms of mesothelioma. The doctor runs some tests on you and, sure enough, you learn you’ve got mesothelioma.

One of the first questions you’re almost certain to ask after receiving your mesothelioma diagnosis is: “How long have I got to live?”

The doctor may or may not have a reliable answer for you. That’s because making a mesothelioma prognosis is complicated.

There are a number of factors that go into it. These include your age, your general health, the stage the mesothelioma has reached and more.

Right now, your doctor can’t tell you the answer to that question of “how long” — not with any certainty, at least.

But that could change in the future. Researchers in Japan have laid the groundwork for a mechanism they think will help mesothelioma doctors offer patients a surer answer to questions about prognosis.

Mesothelioma Prognostic Index

In an issue of the Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers from Kyoto University, Hyogo College of Medicine, and Fukushima Medical University described what they’re calling a prognostic index.

The researchers believe this index can give much stronger indications of expected mesothelioma survival than now is possible using conventional predictive-outcomes tools.

The index even has a name. Officially, it’s the rPHS Index. The “r” in rPHS stands for regimen, the “P” for performance status, the “H” for histology, and the “S” for stage.

They gave it that name because they’ve identified regimen, performance status, histology and stage as the key gauges for arriving at an accurate prognosis.

In the article, the researchers lamented that prognostic indices currently available for determining mesothelioma survival don’t adequately take into account the many recent oncology care advances.

All of these advances have an impact on mesothelioma prognosis.

But because the advances have occurred on multiple fronts, the researchers chose to concentrate for purposes of this study on just platinum-based chemotherapy plus pemetrexed.

Mesothelioma Patients Participate in Survival Study

The first step was to pull together a retrospective cohort study. This entailed looking at the overall survival rates of 283 mesothelioma patients who underwent chemotherapy with pemetrexed at two Japanese hospitals between 2007 and 2013.

Of the 283 patients, 228 of them received chemotherapy while the remaining 55 received what the researchers classified as best supportive care.

The next step was to compare survival risk factors of the chemotherapy group to risk factors for the group that received best supportive care.

It sounds straightforward enough, but it wasn’t since the individual risk factors were in many regards similar between the two groups. As a result, the researchers had to look really carefully to spot the pivotal differences.

Once that task was completed, they were able then to devise the prognostic index.

The researchers came away believing that they had in hand the basis for a broader tool that someday will allow mesothelioma doctors to offer patients prognoses that are more reliable.

And, importantly, it will be possible to offer those prognoses at the time of rendering the diagnosis, rather than weeks or months later.