Clinical Trial Gives Mesothelioma Patient 5 More Happy Years

September 15, 2014 - Carole Hagedorn didn’t expected to make it past 57 or 58 when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2008. She ended up fighting the odds and living an additional 5 years and 10 months after undergoing a experimental treatment. Mesothelioma – one of a group of aggressive, difficult to treat, asbestos-related cancers – attacks the tissues of the mesothelium membrane that surrounds the lungs. Life expectancy for patients with a mesothelioma diagnosis is an average of 18 very painful months. Rather than undergoing radiation therapy or chemotherapy, both of which are known to make patients weak, Carole’s immune system was given a boost that allowed it to target the cancer cells and fight the disease on its own. This trial used injections of a deactivated cold virus to give her immune system a kick-start.

Living Life to the Fulles

Her treatment took place at the University of Pennsylvania and lasted six weeks. Given a new lease on life and a new chance to live her final years comfortably, Vince says, “Carole really grasped life. She had no inhibitions about it. We knew she was living on borrowed time and took advantage as much as we could. We almost completed the bucket list, but could not make it to New Zealand and Australia.” The treatment was not without its costs, though. The couple, who hailed from the United Kingdom, had to spend the equivalent of almost $11,500 just to get to Philadelphia for treatment in 2010, but Vince never hesitated. He says he would’ve sold anything, even their house, to give his wife and the mother of their child a chance at a longer, happier life.

The Smallest Chances

This trial – still in progress – takes only a single patient per year and ordinarily involves two stages of treatment. Carole had a serious reaction to the first treatments, and her doctors decided it was too risky to attempt a second round. According to Vince, Carole very nearly died from her reaction, but a fever actually showed that the treatment was, in fact, working. Then, in 2011, Carole underwent a pleurectomy, in which the lining of her lung was removed, eliminating about 95% of the mesothelial cancer, and she made a full recovery. In the end, Carole did not actually die from mesothelioma – the treatments were a success. Carole died this year after renal failure and a heart attack, but Vince has taken up her cause for her. He continues to raise awareness of mesothelioma, which kills roughly 2,500 people a year. If this clinical trial continues, and the treatment becomes available, Vince hopes that more people can share stories like Carole’s. Reference: Previous: Can the Measles Virus Help Mesothelioma Prognosis? Next: Grants Funds Research into Mesothelioma Treatment