Mesothelioma is a lung disease that affects the surrounding tissue caused by exposure to asbestos. The disease, a form of cancer, usually occurs many years after exposure. Mesothelioma tends not to display any early signs or symptoms. Accordingly, most cases are not found until they are quite advanced. Late detection and the aggressive nature of the disease make mesothelioma among the most difficult of cancers to treat successfully. Efforts have long been underway to improve outcomes for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma.
The most prescribed screening method for surveillance of asbestos-exposed patients is regular x-ray imaging. The test is not specific to asbestos, exposes patients to radiation, and produces a high degree of false positives, which need to be ruled out using invasive sampling of lung fluid or tissue. Due to the limitations of existing diagnostic tests, researchers are looking to find better ways to detect mesothelioma.
One study examined whether blood tests for protein-based biomarkers could be useful in screening for mesothelioma. A group of proteins involved in inflammation and regulation of cellular growth showed promise in a screening test for mesothelioma. The study demonstrated that it is possible to test blood for biomarkers and can find cases of mesothelioma earlier, when they are in potentially curable stages, compared to traditional screening methods.
Advances have also been made in treatment of the disease. Traditional treatment involves surgically removing cancer tumors from the lung, combined with chemotherapy to kill remaining tumors and cancer cells. This treatment is rarely effective in destroying all cancer cells. It is often followed by radiation treatment as palliative care after treatment to reduce symptoms and/or pain from remaining tumors.
Studies of combining radiotherapy with surgery and chemotherapy have been done. The results failed to show a significant benefit of radiotherapy treatment. Other studies recommended against using radiotherapy due to serious side effects, including inflammation of the lung, nausea, weakness, and inflammation of the esophagus.
A recent study in Italy found that a new radiotherapy regime can double the chances of surviving two or more years with mesothelioma. Patients in the study received aggressive radiotherapy, including up to 25 treatments and a single higher dose of radiation on the side of the body having the most tumors.
About 20 percent of the patients in the study experienced lung inflammation. However, findings of improved outcomes led the investigators to conclude that there was merit to adding aggressive radiotherapy to treat the disease. The researchers recommended that patients seek a specialty center with more technically advanced radiotherapy and resources to handle side effects.
The study specifically mentioned proton radiation therapy used with photodynamic therapy showed a consistent benefit in survival times and that this therapy is available at the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center. A diagnosis of mesothelioma can be devastating. Yet, there is hope that with improved methods of detection and treatment, patients will have improved outcomes.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, the Pennsylvania mesothelioma attorneys at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler are prepared to work on your behalf to ensure you obtain the compensation you deserve. For a free consultation, call us at 215-569-4000 or complete an online form. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Delaware County, Chester County, and Philadelphia County.