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Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma

In chemotherapy, drugs that destroy malignant cells are used to treat cancer. These drugs may be used to reduce the size of the tumor before surgery (neo-adjuvant therapy), help destroy malignant cells that may remain untreated after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy), improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy and radiation therapy, or destroy cancer that has reappeared or spread out to other parts from the original site. They can also be used on a standalone basis if the patient does not qualify for surgery.

Significant research work is underway in the field of chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma patients. Progress has been achieved over the past five years in the systemic treatment of this disease. Anti-angiogenesis agents including endostatin and bevacizumab along with standby drugs such as gemcitabine, cisplatin, and alimta are being actively pursued by researchers. Other drugs with potential include Ranpirnase (onconase) and coramsine.

Chemotherapy drugs can either by given on a standalone basis or in combination with two or more drugs simultaneously. This is referred to as “combination therapy”. For instance, Alimta, an investigational drug, (currently prescribed to mesothelioma patients through an expanded access program), is used in combination with other standard drugs such as gemcitabine and cisplatin. Petr F. Hausner has mentioned other effective combinations of chemotherapy drugs such as raltitrexed (Tomudex) used with oxaliplatin (Fizazi, Doubre et al. 2003).

Prior to initiating a chemotherapy procedure, your physician should discuss the proposed treatment and inform you about any potential side effects related to the drugs you may be administered.

Questions related to side effects that you can ask include:

  • What are the side effects of the drug/drugs?
  • Which of the side effects are most likely to manifest?
  • What can be done to alleviate side-effects?
  • Do I have to report certain side effects immediately?
  • How do I contact a doctor after office hours?

Normal cells usually recover after the completion of chemotherapy treatment, which implies that side effects will wane gradually after the treatment ends. The time it takes for side effects to disappear may vary, depending on factors such as the type of treatment administered and your overall health.

Better results are being achieved for mesothelioma patients through the use of new chemotherapy agents and drug combinations. Researchers have shown great interest in combination therapies and targeted therapies involving agents such as angiogenesis inhibitors and kinase inhibitors.