Vinblastine is a medication used to treat a variety of different cancers, including mesothelioma. The drug works by targeting cells that are undergoing mitosis, a process of cell division that creates two new cells that are usually genetically identical to their predecessor. Since cancer cells divide more rapidly than other cells, they are far more likely to be affected by vinblastine than normal cells are.

How It Works

Vinblastine is one of a number of different drugs classified as chemotherapeutic agents. Chemotherapy is a regimen designed to destroy metastasizing cells, in other words, cells that have broken away from the original tumor site and spread to surrounding tissues. Vinblastine is included in the group of chemotherapy drugs known as vinca alkaloids. Chemotherapy treatments can be utilized in several different ways including: the shrinking of tumors, in combination with radiation therapy, as an option for patients unable to undergo surgical procedures, and as treatment of cancerous cells post surgery. In combination therapy, Vinblastine is often given in conjunction with adriamycin, bleomycin, and dacarbazine. More recently, Vinblastine has been paired with cisplatin, which has generated positive results.

Treating Mesothelioma

Vinblastine is most often administered to mesothelioma patients in conjunction with other chemotherapeutic agents, a treatment regimen referred to as combination therapy. Mesothelioma is a malignant cancer normally associated with prolonged asbestos exposure. Those occupations with the greatest risk of developing the disease are people who’ve worked in asbestos mines, employees in construction and other related industries, and the auto industry. Mesothelioma typically has a very long latency period: 30 or 40 years may pass between the time of the initial asbestos exposure and the diagnosis. This means that patients are generally in the final stages of the disease by the time they are diagnosed. Combination chemotherapy works well for cancer patients who have progressed to Stage III or Stage IV of their disease because the different drugs attack the cancer cells in different phases of the cell cycle.

Vinblastine is not a cure for mesothelioma, but is effective in slowing the growth and division of these cells. Cancer cells reproduce quite rapidly, which is the reason chemotherapy drugs such as vinblastine are used to target them. This drug was approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as of 1984.