US photodynamic therapy hope for mesothelioma patients


Combining photodynamic therapy (PDT) with lung-sparing surgery could add up to 2 years to the lives of mesothelioma sufferers, new research by the University of Pennsylvania has found.

Lung Disease

According to scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine, the mixture of treatments suggests that patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma could survive significantly longer than those receiving other treatments.

For each of the study's 38 subjects, all but 1 of whom had advanced mesothelioma, a specialist determined whether they were suitable for lung-sparing surgery. When they were followed up 34 months after the PDT/lung-sparing combination, the average overall survival rate was 31.7 months.

The researchers said the epithelial subtype of the cancer was significant in 31 of the patients, with an overall survival average of 41.2 months.

Expressing himself "encouraged" by the study's results without considering them a "victory against mesothelioma", Dr Joseph Friedberg said: "Based on our new findings, we are redoubling our clinical and translational research efforts to find a way to further improve and refine this multimodality treatment approach for mesothelioma."

In earlier tests, Dr Friedberg's team demonstrated that lung-sparing surgery plus photodynamic therapy was better than accepted mesothelioma treatment, in which the lung is surgically removed alongside whole chest radiation and chemotherapy.

The researchers said that oncologists tend to concentrate on extending mesothelioma patients' lives and improving quality of life. "All patients with this type of cancer eventually experience recurrence - the cancer comes back. If the patient can keep both lungs, they are in a better position to withstand additional treatment when the cancer comes back, and consequently live longer.

"We are working together as a team, not just in the clinic but in the laboratory as well, to find the best way to combine our respective expertise. Our goal is an innovative combined treatment that represents a new level of a multipronged attack on this horrendous cancer."

Usually caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres, mesothelioma is among the deadliest types of cancer. Although mesothelioma can take up to 40 years after asbestos exposure to develop, fewer than 40% of patients survive for more than 1 year after diagnosis.

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