As a mesothelioma lawyer, I have sat with many of my clients as they try to deal with the prognosis that comes with a mesothelioma diagnosis. There is no cure for this cancer and the survival rates are typically measured in months, not years. I urge my clients to be as positive as they can be. I know scientists are not only seeking a cure for mesothelioma, but are also looking for ways to extend survival rates and the quality of life for these patients. I think it helps my clients when I can tell them about new research and medical studies. So I am constantly reading medical journals and articles in the hope of finding news about mesothelioma research.
I was very encouraged when I recently read an article that reported Australian researchers have found that mesothelioma patients are living longer today than they were 20 year ago. The increase in patient’s longevity is being attributed to more advanced treatment techniques and doctors with better knowledge of this devastating disease
The study which, was published in the June 2011 edition of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery and Cardiovascular Surgery, cataloged 540 malignant mesothelioma patients who underwent surgery between 1984 and 2008. The 540 patients were divided into two groups– the first group of 270 underwent surgery before September 1999 and the second group consisted of patients who were treated after that date. Researchers discovered that patients in the second group who were treated after September 1999 lived longer than the patients in the first group who were treated earlier. The researchers attributed the second group of patients’ longevity to four reasons:
- Treatment by experienced physicians who had treated more than 100 mesothelioma cases;
- The type of surgery they received which often was an extrapleural pneumonectomy;
- The cellular subtype of mesothelioma they had; and
- The use of post-operative radiation and chemotherapy.
Because mesothelioma is a rare cancer, treatment by experienced physicians greatly improves the survival rates. In the last 12 years many patients have undergone an extrapleural pneumonectomy at hospitals that specialize in treating mesothelioma. This is a radical surgery in which the lung and lining of the lung, heart and diaphragm are removed. Not all mesothelioma patients are able to undergo this surgery, but it has played a role in extending survival rates. The cellular type also makes a significant difference as researchers have found that patients with the epithelial subtype of mesothelioma have longer survival rates. Patients now also receive chemotherapy treatments that include Alimta and Cisplatin-a combination of drugs that was not available ten years ago to treat mesothelioma. You can get more information about these treatment options by going to our Mesothelioma Knowledge Center.
Advances in Treatment Centers
It is important to note that the researchers credited the development of treatment centers specializing in the treatment of asbestos-related diseases to an improved survival time for mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma is a rare disease and treatment centers that have handled many mesothelioma cases can lead to a better result for patients. One of the better known treatment facilities that specializes in mesothelioma treatment is the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Many significant advances have been made by the IMP since its establishment in 2002. They make certain their patients receive the most up to date treatment they have to offer. They have a team of doctors and clinicians, all focused on finding a cure and better treatment for mesothelioma. Dr. David Sugarbaker, Chief of Thoracic Surgery and founder of the IMP, says that the goal of the IMP can be summed up by this simple phrase: “Quality life extension leading to a cure.”