Cancer research is a major part of the medical research landscape. Hospitals, research clinics and pharmaceutical companies invest millions of dollars annually in the search for innovative and effective treatments against all forms of cancer. Older drugs that have proven effective in fighting certain types of cancer are also being tested against other forms of the disease, including mesothelioma.
While much of the research has traditionally focused on developing drugs that attack and kill cancer cells, new technologies also show considerable promise for the future. And other technological advances will inevitably be developed in coming years to battle one of the world’s most aggressive and persistent killers.
New and experimental treatments to treat mesothelioma are by definition still in various phases of clinical trials, and are therefore not generally accessible to patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. The Mesothelioma Options Help Center can work with you to find out if you qualify for one of these clinical trials – to learn more, contact us today.
Angiogenesis Inhibition Therapy
On the pharmaceutical front, most of the attention has historically been placed on developing drugs that attack and kill cancer cells. Angiogenesis inhibition therapy, however, uses a different approach – choking off the supply of blood that tumors need to grow and proliferate. That supply is created by a process known as angiogenesis, in which the body forms blood vessels – blood vessels created near mesothelioma tumors provide a ready food source for cancer cells. By blocking the process itself, angiogenesis inhibition therapy prevents the tumors from growing. Some experimental chemotherapy drugs such as Bevacizumab also target blood vessels rather than cancer cells.
Much attention and energy has been directed to genetic research over the last two decades, and the potential for using genetic therapies in medical applications is both vast and exciting. Many diseases, including cancer, involve the mutation of benign genes into malignant ones. Essentially, gene therapy involves altering the DNA or RNA of specific genes to treat a particular illness. Gene therapy usually has one of three different goals: Replacing mutated genes with healthy copies; inactivating mutated genes that are causing or contributing to a health problem; or introducing new genes that can fight a problem. Unlike with chemotherapy, which cannot distinguish between healthy and malignant cells, the idea behind gene therapy is to target only cancer cells.
One persistent problem with conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy is that they limit or even damage the body’s immune system, the primary biological tool for combating disease. In contrast, immunotherapy bolsters the immune system using natural or synthesized drugs known as biologic response modifiers to help the body fight mesothelioma and other cancers. In addition to strengthening the immune system, immunotherapy can also alter biological processes that are favorable to cancer cell development and growth, and prevent the spread of tumors.
Usually used in conjunction with surgery, photodynamic therapy operates on the theory that cancer cells can be killed by subjecting them to certain light frequencies using photosensitizing drugs, which are activated by a laser. The timing of the laser treatments must be precise in order to avoid killing healthy cells, and side effects associated with the treatment have limited its use to date, but photodynamic therapy does show promise as the technology continues to evolve.
Another new technology that is being studied as a complementary treatment for mesothelioma is the use of nanoparticles as a delivery system for chemotherapy agents. Nanoparticles carrying chemotherapy drugs and injected into tumor sites seek out and invade cancerous cells. This in turn allows for a significantly lower and better targeted dosage of chemotherapy, reducing side effects and damage to healthy cells.
One of the biggest problems with mesothelioma is that it is very hard to diagnose and not often caught until a late stage, at which point treatment options are limited. New methods to detect mesothelioma in its earliest stages are being tested and have the potential to greatly improve the long-term prospects of mesothelioma patients.
The treatments discussed above are being advanced today; tomorrow will undoubtedly bring new approaches and technologies that are still in the theoretical stage or haven’t yet been considered. The Mesothelioma Options Help Center keeps close tabs on these developments and is committed to helping you and your family find and access the best and most up-to-date treatment options. For a free information packet and learn more about how we can assist you, contact us today.