Mesothelioma Drug Companies

Setbacks with Mesothelioma Drugs

Few companies focus on the research and development of drugs exclusively for mesothelioma because it is so rare and difficult to treat.  Between 2,000 and 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.  For comparison, 207,090 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 alone.  Unfortunately, the rarity of mesothelioma means that research into treatments is less profitable for pharmaceutical companies.

This cancer is also very difficult to treat.  Since mesothelioma has a latency period of two to five decades and its symptoms can mimic those of less serious lung conditions, it often goes undiagnosed until it is in the later stages of the disease.  By this time, the cancer has usually already metastasized.  At this point, treatment is generally palliative, targeting the symptoms to make the patient more comfortable but not offering a cure.

Drug Research

However, some pharmaceutical companies are developing chemotherapy and other drugs to combat the advance of mesothelioma.  The current standard of chemotherapy treatment for the cancer is a combination of the drugs pemetrexed (Alimta)and cisplatin.  A number of other chemotherapy drugs may also be used, either with or without radiation therapy.  These drugs work by attacking cells that divide quickly, as cancerous cells do, but their toxic effects are not limited to tumors.  Most chemotherapy patients will experience unpleasant side effects; however, these often go away when the drug regimen is finished.

Chemotherapy is not the only pharmaceutical avenue being explored.  Some angiogenesis inhibitors, including a drug called Veglin, are undergoing clinical trials to test their effectiveness against mesothelioma.  This type of drug works by preventing the process by which the body produces new blood vessels, called angiogenesis.  If blood flow to the tumor can be restricted, the tumor will cease to grow and metastasize.

As technology advances, pharmaceutical companies will likely pursue new and better treatment for cancers like mesothelioma.

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