Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that affects individuals exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma is normally treated by a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Since mesothelioma symptoms do not normally appear until decades after initial exposure, this cancer generally goes undiagnosed until it reaches an advanced stage. This makes treatment extremely difficult, as options are often limited.
Sometimes the stage of a patient’s mesothelioma makes surgery impossible, forcing doctors to result to other treatments. Among these alternative are the administration of cancer drugs. Drug therapy for Mesothelioma cancer normally involves chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the best way to destroy cancer cells and prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy is not a cure for mesothelioma. The type of chemotherapy that is used depends on the type of mesothelioma the patient is diagnosed with. It also depends on how far along the cancer has progressed. For example, neoadjuvant chemotherapy is used to shrink the size of a cancerous tumor before a more radical approach. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is needed so that the tumor can be shrunken to a size that allows it to be removed by surgery.
Adjuvant chemotherapy is only used after the tumor has been surgically removed. Adjuvant chemotherapy is used to prevent any remaining cancer cells from regenerating. More than one drug is generally given during this form of chemotherapy. This is known as combination chemotherapy.
Palliative chemotherapy is not a cure for mesothelioma. It is only used to relieve some of the painful symptoms of mesothelioma cancer. Often this form of chemotherapy is given to patients with metastatic cancers, which means they have a shorter life expectancy. Although chemotherapy is by its very nature, toxic, doctors are increasingly prescribing it closer and closer to the end of patients’ lives.
Alimta and Cisplatin
Alimta is a cancer medication that was approved by the FDA in 2004. Alimta is specifically identified as a treatment for pleural mesothelioma. It is used to prevent tumors from reproducing and spreading. In addition, Alimta is often used in conjunction with the drug Cisplatin when surgery is not an option. The combination of these two drugs for mesothelioma is known to improve the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients.
Angiogenesis is the term used to describe the process of new blood vessels being created from old blood vessels. Angiogenesis happens when a tumor develops. After a tumor develops, angiogenesis will create new blood vessels that will help the tumor get the nutrients that it needs in order to develop and grow. Anti-angiogenesis drugs, like Avastin, are designed to stop this process from occurring. This drug is often used to treat patients that cannot undergo surgery.
Chemotherapy drugs are extremely toxic and likely cause side effects that will make the mesothelioma patient weak and tired. Side effects include fatigue, hair loss, diarrhea, nausea, anemia, and constipation. In addition, it is common for chemotherapy drugs to cause added damage to the kidney, liver, and heart. Although given to kill cancerous cells, chemotherapy can also harm normal cells.