Generally caused by exposure to asbestos, mesothelioma is a rare cancer that affects the protective lining of internal organs and it is difficult to both detect and treat. As a result of its poor treatment success rates, research into treating this condition occurs constantly. In addition to treatments for this cancer, doctors are also looking for more accurate ways to diagnose this disease. However, the roles of various treatments remain highly debated, making this one of the most important areas to address. At this time, only one FDA-approved chemotherapy drug used to treat mesothelioma exists, and doctors are scrambling to find other options for patients.
Alimta and Cisplatin
Alimta, generally an effective chemotherapy drug that slows the growth and spread of cancer cells, is usually administered with Cisplatin as an accelerant, though in some cases the cancer has progressed too far or an individual is resistant to the drug. For this reason, pharmaceutical companies have lobbied to have Onconase, a drug similar to Alimta that causes cancer cells to die at the correct time, placed within the FDA’s Fast Track program. The purpose of this program is to speed up the approval process for drugs that treat an illness with few other treatment options. Onconase is in the final stages of clinical testing and shows positive indications so far.
Veglin, a drug still in phase two of clinical trials, has physicians incredibly optimistic about the discovery of more efficient cures in the future. It is a non-chemotherapy drug that acts as an angiogenesis inhibitor. This group of drugs prevents the spread and growth of cancerous tumors by preventing blood vessels from growing. Without this increased flow of blood and oxygen, the malignancies cannot survive. Early tests have yielded positive results, and doctors and physicians are already anticipating that this drug will replace Alimta as the most effective treatment option.
Intensity Modulation Radiation Therapy
Researchers have also made strides in other nonconventional options for treating Mesothelioma. Intensity Modulation Radiation Therapy is a more specialized type of radiation therapy especially useful for treating mesothelioma. it targets a more specific area, therefore sparing the nearby cells. This is especially important when the malignancies lie on important organs. In addition, scientists are studying Gene Therapy, which will replace or repair defective genes in cancer cells. Though this treatment option remains in its early stages, it is a breakthrough medicine that offers exciting possibilities.
The actual process of introducing new disease treatments extends anywhere from 12 to 15 years. Years one to three involve basic research about the product, while years four through six are used for pre-clinical and animal testing. Years seven through 10 are when clinical testing phases I, II and III take place. Having completed all previous development stages, during the tenth year manufacturers can register their drugs with the Food and Drug Administration, which then can make its way to the public the following year. Years 11 through 15 are then spend monitoring the product and conducting phase IV clinical trials.