Grants Funds Research into Mesothelioma Treatment

October 15, 2014A recent $8 million grant awarded to the Penn Mesothelioma Program at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania will hopefully help researchers find effective treatment for patients afflicted by malignant pleural mesothelioma. The program is considered a world leaders in the research and treatment of mesothelioma. They received the grant in September 2014 and will fund a clinical trial to assess the effects of certain therapies, including PDT, as well as surgery for mesothelioma patients. The hope is that PDT strengthens the immunity of patients and also positively affects the tumor cell and blood vessels supplying the cell. The study is expected to run for more than four years and include 102 patients. Researchers will administer Photofrin, which is a photosensitizing agent that makes cancer cells more vulnerable to light therapy. Photofrin will be given to patients 24 hours prior to their surgery for radical pleurectomy, which is the removal of the pleura or lining of the lung along with the tumor cells contained within. Radical pleurectomy makes it possible for mesothelioma patients to keep their lung. The procedure typically results in a better post-operative quality of life, as well as improved survival compared to other common mesothelioma surgeries. Half of the study’s participants will receive PDT intra-operatively with intense laser insertion in the chest cavity during the surgery. Photofrin absorbs the light of the laser and produces an active form of oxygen that destroys residual microscopic cancer cells which the surgery cannot remove. The other half of study participants will not receive the additional treatment during surgery. Both groups will undergo post-operative chemotherapy. PDT treatment has been used in the past, but researchers hope the study will definitively prove its efficacy. They know it kills cancer cells, but they want to study its effects on patient immunity, as well as how it affects the tumor and the surrounding area. There is also hope they can discover a way to boost the effects of PDT. Additional goals of the project include examining whether PDT can reduce inflammation and cell growth and to study the vasculature of tumors following PDT and evaluate any changes in the vascular environment and the potential for modulation to improve the efficacy of the treatment. Ultimately, researchers want to understand exactly how PDT affects the entire body so they can make the most of it when battling mesothelioma. Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive cancer that usually occurs in the lungs and is nearly always caused by exposure to asbestos. It is considered one of the most deadly forms of cancer. Approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States. These numbers are expected to rise worldwide based on rates of uncontrolled asbestos exposure. There is limited hope for those diagnosed with mesothelioma. The study is expected to be a big step forward in understanding mesothelioma treatment and the goal is to develop ways to offer patients more hope when they are diagnosed with the disease. Symptoms of mesothelioma include a raspy or dry cough that can include blood. Patients typically have shortness of breath or general difficulty breathing. Breathing can also be painful and many experience back pain, as well. Other symptoms include night sweats, weight loss, difficulty swallowing, fatigue, and lumps on the chest. Mesothelioma occurs in four stages, so the severity of symptoms is dependent on the stage. Unfortunately, since the disease might not be noticed until the later stages once it has progressed, prognosis is negative.
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