Mesothelioma Treatments - Malignant Mesothelioma, Asbestos

Mesothelioma treatments have been unsuccessful in combating malignant mesothelioma. The failure of mesothelioma treatments to eradicate the disease could be attributed to the short post-diagnosis survival time of malignant mesothelioma patients (one to two years). Once diagnosed, malignant mesothelioma is typically in an advanced stage, limiting the effect that mesothelioma treatments can have.

Although asbestos lung cancer is often asymptomatic in its early stages, it can be diagnosed long before reaching an advanced stage. This creates a larger window of opportunity for treatment to take place, increasing treatment options. The longer a patient can receive treatment, the greater the chance of success.

Traditional Mesothelioma Treatments

Mesothelioma treatments are broken down into two categories: traditional treatments and new treatments.

Traditional mesothelioma treatments are similar to other standard cancer treatment modalities. Two or more traditional mesothelioma treatments are often used together to better combat cancerous cells.

Traditional mesothelioma treatments include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy (radiotherapy)


Surgical treatment is one of the oldest methods used to combat cancer. Surgical mesothelioma treatments involve the physical removal of a cancerous mass from a malignant mesothelioma patient.

There are three categories of surgical treatment:

  • Diagnostic surgery: used to provide a conclusive mesothelioma diagnosis. A biopsy is a diagnostic surgery that involves the surgical removal of diseased tissue for examination by a histopathologist.
  • Palliative surgery: used to treat a symptom of a disease without treating the disease itself. For example, fluid build-up in the chest (pleural effusion) is a common and painful symptom of pleural mesothelioma. A palliative surgical procedure treating pleural effusion is a thoracoscopy, the draining of fluid from the chest.
  • Potentially curative surgery: is performed with "curative intent," typically involving the removal of large amounts of diseased tissue. For example, an extrapleural pneumonectomy is a potentially curative mesothelioma surgery used to treat pleural mesothelioma. The highly invasive procedure involves the removal of cancerous pleural tissue in addition to an entire lung.


Chemotherapy mesothelioma treatments use chemical substances (drugs) to treat cancerous cells. Cancer cells are different from normal cells in that they divide and multiply in an uncontrolled fashion, allowing the disease to grow and spread rapidly. Anticancer chemotherapy drugs are developed to inhibit the spread of cancer by introducing elements of control to the otherwise uncontrollable cells.

Cisplatin is a platinum-based chemotherapy drug used to treat a variety of cancers including sarcomas, carcinomas, lymphomas and mesothelioma (when in combination with other chemotherapy drugs). Cisplatin functions culminate in programmed cellular death (apoptosis) for targeted cancer cells by preventing rapidly dividing cells to duplicate DNA.

New malignant mesothelioma treatments revolve primarily around the development and implementation of new chemotherapy drugs like Alimta (commonly used with cisplatin), Veglin and Onconase.

Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy)

Radiotherapy mesothelioma treatments use high-energy particle beams (radiation waves) to kill cancerous cells. Radiotherapy is often used palliatively for the purpose of relieving certain malignant mesothelioma symptoms such as pain or shortness of breath.

Radiation therapy can have a negative effect on healthy tissue surrounding treated cancer cells. Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) was therefore designed with the intention of providing a more targeted system of radiotherapy, limiting the amount of healthy tissue exposed to radiation.

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