Hormonal therapy is frequently used to treat breast cancer, but recently studies have shown that this type of therapy may also help patients with mesothelioma. The possibility of successful treatments like this gives patients suffereing from mesothelioma hope for a bright future.
About Hormonal Therapy
Hormonal therapy should not be confused with hormone replacement therapy that is used to relieve the symptoms of menopause. Hormonal therapy is any type of treatment that supplements, blocks, or replaces the hormones that occur naturally in the human body.
Hormones aid in the growth of cancer, so hormonal therapy in cancer patients actually takes advantage of this dependence. This type of therapy blocks the hormones or the hormone receptors (proteins that are bound to the outside of the hormones) in order to treat some cancers. Hormonal therapy treats the entire body and is often used as a follow up treatment to surgery to decrease the risk of a recurrence of the cancer.
Side Effects of Hormonal Therapy
The drugs used for hormonal therapy are normally given in the form of a tablet or as a liquid containing tiny particles of the drug. Hormonal therapy side effects are minimal, if any at all. The most common side effects reported are an increase in appetite, nausea, and retention of fluids. Some hormonal treatments for cancer do have some serious but rare side effects such as severely elevated blood pressure, jaundice, or allergic reactions. The symptoms of an allergic reaction include breathing difficulties, swelling, or chest pain.
Benefits of Hormonal Therapy for Mesothelioma
Recent research studies involving a synthetically produced hormone named dexamethasone have been carried out in order to determine if the use of that hormone would reduce the effectiveness of other treatments for mesothelioma. The results of the study to this point have been encouraging, and dexamethasone has been shown to reduce the severe skin rash that sometimes accompanies chemotherapy treatment.
The drug Megestrol has been the focus of other clinical trials. Megestrol is a derivative of progesterone that is already used to treat weight loss and lack of appetite in cancer patients, but one study looked specifically at its effects on malignant mesothelioma. There was improvement in median survival rate, and though the increase in disease-free survival was not statistically significant, there is still evidence that megestrol acetate may be a useful adjuvant (post-surgical) therapy.
It has been proven that hormonal therapy is a useful treatment for endometrial and breast cancer in women as well as prostate cancer in men. Continued research and clinical trials may soon determine if these same types of therapy will benefit patients with mesothelioma either in the short-term or long-term.