Experimental Drug Combination did not Work against Mesothelioma as Hoped

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

One of the primary treatments for mesothelioma is chemotherapy.  Cancer cells rapidly divide which increases tumor size; chemotherapy drugs attack the cancer cells and disrupt its division process.  A major problem with chemotherapy is that along with cancer cells it also targets rapidly dividing healthy cells.  Chemotherapy treatment plans vary from patient to patient depending upon whether the patient has pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma, the stage of the disease and various other factors.  Normally, chemotherapy drugs are given in combination but if a patient can’t handle the combination then single drugs are used.

There are different methods of administering chemotherapy drugs.  These methods include:

Systemic: In this method, the drug is given intravenously or orally so that it circulates in the system.  It’s an effective method but also involves fairly severe side effects.

Intrapleural or Intraperitoneal: This method is used to directly target the tumors by administering the drug through a tube directly to the site of tumors.  In this method, most of the drug stays at the site and little amount enters the blood stream.

Chemotherapy is a bitter pill to swallow because of the side effects.  The most common side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss, nausea and vomiting, a weakened immune system, low platelet count, aches and pains, anemia, loss of appetite, fatigue, low grade fever, upset stomach, etc.

Various types of drugs are used to treat mesothelioma; there are four main categories of these drugs including chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy, immunotherapy, and anti-angiogenesis.

Photodynamic therapy is used to kill cancer cells by first making them vulnerable and then destroying them.  Immunotherapy is used to strengthen the immune system so that it can fight cancer cells.  Anti-angiogenesis drugs are used to prevent new blood vessels from forming, which impedes blood supply to cancer cells and kills them.

Experimental Drug Combination

One of the most common chemotherapy combinations for mesothelioma is gemcitabine combined with cisplatin.  In an effort to improve the efficacy of this combination, a team of researchers from 11 top US cancer centers, headed by mesothelioma specialist Hedy L. Kindler, M.D., conducted a study.  The researchers added bevacizumab to the combination (gemcitabine + cisplatin).

In this study, 115 patients participated at 11 locations across America.  Patients were given 1250 mg of gemcitabine, 75 mg of cisplatin and 15 mg of bevacizumab.  The treatment consisted of six cycles in which, gemcitabine was given on days 1, 8 and 21; cisplatin was given every 21 days and bevacizumab or a placebo was give every 21 days.  After the completion of six cycles, bevacizumab was administered every 21 days until cancer started progressing.

Unfortunately, the results showed that this combination was not successful in treating mesothelioma.

Signs of Hope

Although this treatment didn’t work out as expected, there are other promising therapies.  For example a leading mesothelioma expert Raffit Hassan shared that when used in correct combinations, drugs like SS1 may extend a patient’s life for several months.  Another study conducted by Professor Des Richardson of the Sydney Medical School, shows that there other anti-cancer drugs that may improve the outcome for mesothelioma patients.

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