Researchers in Japan and the UK have identified two ways of improving the effectiveness and survival rate of mesothelioma treatment, which raises the hope that mesothelioma survivors will become more common in the future. The studies looked at ways of predicting the effectiveness of chemotherapy in advance of trying it as well as factors which influence the success rate of cytoreductive surgery for mesothelioma.
Using the results of these studies, doctors as well as patients have a better understanding of what to do for maximum effectiveness treating mesothelioma. In the future, they may be able to tell which form of chemotherapy is most likely to help a particular patient, and patients know what to look for in choosing a cancer center for surgery.
Japanese Study Raises Promise Of Determining Chemotherapy Effectiveness Before the Fact
Japanese cancer researchers appear to have found a way of predicting which mesothelioma patients will likely respond to the “gold standard” chemotherapy mix of cisplatin and Alimta (pemetrexed).
At the moment the treatment is widely used but only has limited success, not an uncommon result with the difficult to treat mesothelioma cancer. Unfortunately, many doctors must waste valuable time testing the therapy on a patient before they know whether it will be effective, which means that for the cases that the treatment cannot help the fast-growing mesothelioma cancer has more time to grow.
Currently there is no widely used process which would allow doctors to predict in advance which treatment is most likely to produce results, hence the trial and error. The study out of Japan aims to change all that.
Doctors at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School tested six cell lines of malignant pleural mesothelioma in the lab, and found three of the six were sensitive to Alimta. Using gene expression profiling, they attempted to find factors which would identify a given type of cancer as sensitive to Alimta or not.
The results of this analysis showed that a structural glycoprotein known as osteopontin was a key differentiator between Alimta-sensitive forms of mesothelioma and Alimta-resistant types. Cells which expressed more osteopontin were more likely to respond to Alimta-based treatments.
Moving to clinical tests, the doctors found this correlation held with human patients as well. They identified two patients who had responded well to Alimta-based chemotherapy who also had tumors that expressed high levels of osteopontin, coming to the conclusion that osteopontin may work as a predictive biomarker for predicting Alimta treatment effectiveness in advance. It is not clear, however, how many patients responded to Alimta but did not have high levels of osteopontin expression.
Mesothelioma Surgeon Experience Predicts Surgical Success
If a lab testable quantity predicts the effectiveness of Alimta chemotherapy, an even easier-to-measure quantity appears to predict the effectiveness of surgery in treating mesothelioma — surgeon experience.
According to two researchers out of the UK, who analyzed 16 different studies looking at the two most popular types of surgery for pleural mesothelioma, the deciding factor is not the type of surgery but the experience level of the cancer center performing the surgery. Cancer centers with high level of experience produced more mesothelioma survivors regardless of the surgery type.
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