No matter what prognosis a patient with malignant mesothelioma is given when they are first diagnosed, they are likely to be offered a multi-modality treatment approach that includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These three protocols are offered whether a patient and their physician decide on a curative approach to their disease or a palliative approach that is simply designed to offer pain relief and improved quality of life. Though this protocol has long been accepted as the best that medicine has to offer at this time, new research out of the University of Heidelberg in Germany suggests that the radiation therapy part of the combination may be allowing mesothelioma cancer cells to migrate and spread.
The use of radiation therapy in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma is largely geared towards killing any cancer cells that may remain following surgical removal of tumors. It can also be used to reduce the size of the tumors prior to surgery. As technology has advanced there have been a number of different types of radiation introduced in the battle against cancer, but in most cases it is low-dose photon irradiation that is used to treat mesothelioma, and it is this type that was studied by the German researchers. Their specific concern focused on a protein that is emitted by cancer cells when they are exposed to radiation, and which they believe may actually encourage the cancer to migrate from the targeted area to other areas of the body, thus spreading the cancer instead of achieving the goal of killing it.
The researchers were lead by Dr. Stefan Rieken of the school’s department of thoracic surgery and radiation oncology. They found that the actions of the protein could be offset by the administration of a specific molecule called an agonist. They also found that other forms of radiation therapy known as carbon ion irradiation was able to both kill the mesothelioma cancer cells and avoid the migrating action. They plan on doing further studies to see whether the same effect is found in human studies that has been found in the laboratory studies that they conducted.
Staying on top of the latest mesothelioma research is just one of the challenges facing people who have been diagnosed with this rare and fatal disease. They also need to address the financial and emotional needs of their family, and of themselves as well. For assistance in all aspects of dealing with malignant mesothelioma, contact our professionals team. We can be reached at 1-800-966-2244.