When it comes to treating malignant mesothelioma, chemotherapy is one of the most common forms of treatment that are used. Chemotherapy is a form of medication that kills cancer cells. Unfortunately, it also is extremely toxic to healthy cells, and for that reason its use is often limited, particularly when treating pleural mesothelioma: there is great risk in damaging healthy tissue located in the same area of the chest as the cancerous tumors. But a recent study conducted by German surgeons is offering a method of using chemotherapy in a highly targeted way that prevents the toxic drug from impacting vulnerable structures in the same body region. By blocking off pathways and limiting the time of exposure to the chemotherapy drugs, the doctors were able to provide pleural mesothelioma patients with much improved survival times and quality of life.
According to an article published in the journal OncoTargets and Therapy, surgeons from Burghausen, Germany arrived upon the innovative strategy of limiting chemotherapeutic exposure when faced with the limited advantages of aggressive surgery for pleural mesothelioma. The surgical techniques often leave patients so weakened and with such a reduced quality of life that the approach is of questionable advantage. Instead they looked for a way to use chemotherapy without the accompanying systemic damage to healthy tissue. The chief investigator, Karl Reinhard Aiger, explains, “The aorta and inferior vena cava were blocked at the level of the diaphragm and the upper arms were blocked by pneumatic cuffs.” This technique limited the amount of toxic chemicals to the area where the malignant cancer cells were located. A chemotherapy solution of cisplatin and mitoxantrone was allowed to bathe the area for a limited period of time similar to what is used when peritoneal cancer is treated using heated chemotherapy. After 15 minutes a filtering machine was used to remove the drugs from the cavity and the blocking devices were removed.
Upon review of the results, the German surgeons and oncologists were enthusiastic about the opportunities that this new approach offers, concluding, “ITP-F for patients with advanced pleural mesothelioma, progressive after standard therapies, is an effective and well tolerated treatment modality, offering comparably long survival data at a good quality of life.” It proved to have minimal side effects and offer improved survival times.
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