Mesothelioma Research

Scientists are constantly testing new and innovative therapies for Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). Knowing about current research and studies on MPM will enable you to make more informed decisions about your medical options.

One of the busiest areas of mesothelioma research is the study of the disease’s relationship to asbestos exposure. Researchers have known for some time that asbestos is the sole proven cause of MPM. However, there has been a flurry of activity lately surrounding the mechanism by which asbestos causes mesothelioma.

Scientists are currently running dozens of cellular experiments to determine how asbestos damages cells. Many theorize that the fibers get stuck in lung cell membranes, damaging DNA, encouraging further oxidative damage and causing profound scarring. A central question among oncologists is whether there might be an as-yet-undiscovered treatment for MPM, one that might outdistance current therapies. Several new methods are currently being explored.

Current Mesothelioma Research Studies:

  • Chemotherapy. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), researchers are testing the effects of dozens of new drugs on mesothelioma growth. Many of these substances already inhibit the the growth of other cancers – like raltitrexed, an antimetabolite that blocks rapid cellular growth, which has been used for colon cancer since 1998, according to the Mayo Clinic.
  • Chemo administration methods: The ACS notes that scientists are now trying injecting drugs (some of which are heated first) directly into mesothelioma tumors. This direct application has the potential to target carcinomas more directly and limit side effects.
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT): In this mode of therapy, a specially formulated drug is given intravenously. Doctors allow several days to pass, giving the compound time to settle into tumor cells before inserting a light-emitting tube into the chest. The wavelength of light activates the drug (called a “photsensitizer”), which emits charged oxygen molecules, killing tumor cells. Though still in the trial phase, PDT is getting quite positive results.
  • CT scanning for surgery-free tumor tracking: CT scans are already routinely used as part of the MPM diagnostic process. A team of radiologists from the University of Chicago found that CT scanning may be used to non-invasively track the size of mesothelioma tumors. The group’s results indicated that this 3D imaging method may be as accurate as surgical biopsies in estimating the extent of MPM growth.
  • Other targeted treatments: Scientists are testing specially formulated compounds that precisely attack one step in the MPM growth cycle. A good example is the angiogenesis inhibitor, which prevents tumor cells from getting a good blood supply.

Even more futuristic treatments are in the works. In this vein, the ACS points to gene therapy, which might one day allow doctors to repair damaged lung cell DNA using specially modified viruses.