Grassroots lobbying for mesothelioma patients

In Scotland there is a movement to eliminate a legal loophole in asbestos-exposure cases. The current law gives the most compensation to victims’ families after they die. If the new effort succeeds, people could get larger settlements while they are still alive. The newspaper The Herald reports that “Hugh Henry, the deputy justice minister, is to meet campaigners on mesothelioma, a fatal and increasingly common form of illness caused by the dust, and is expected to tell them he backs their cause.”

Sequential Chemotherapy has an article about trying to find an effective chemotherapy regimen for mesothelioma. This is such an intractable form of cancer and resists forms of therapy that are effective for other cancers: radiation, surgery, simple chemotherapy. The cutting edge of mesothelioma treatment involves combinaton therapy: more than one treatment.

There’s a study out of Italy where they treated patients with sequential chemotherapy, where one drug (or group of drugs) is given for a while followed by the another group of drugs. In this trial they used cisplatin plus gemcitabine, followed by mitoxantrone, methotrexate, and mitomycin. They got good results. The median survival was 13 months and 63% of the patients were still alive after one year.

Now this is only one study, and the results weren’t miraculous, but they are encouraging and more evidence that combination therapy is generally the best way to go.

CNN mistakes mesothelioma for lung cancer

This is a pretty common mistake in the popular press – thinking mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer. In mesothelioma, the tumor is on the mesothelium, which is the lining of the pleural cavity. In lung cancer, the tumor is in the lung tissue.

In this case, the story was on Dana Reeve, the widow of Christopher Reeve, who died of lung cancer at age 44. Most (but not all) cases of lung cancer can be attributed to smoking. In the popular imagination, all lung cancer patients smoked, but that is not necessarily true. Dana Reeve said she never smoked, but she got cancer anyway.

The CNN story says “other factors associated with lung cancer include exposure to asbestos or fine airborne particulates.” I understand that journalists don’t want to spend time and space explaining that asbestos causes mesothelioma, which is not the same as lung cancer, but it still sometimes irks me.