Mesothelioma is a notoriously difficult form of cancer to treat. The disease, which is caused by exposure to asbestos, does not respond well to chemotherapy treatment, and as a result the average survival rate from time of diagnosis tends to be less than two years. But a recent report issued by the National Institutes of Health suggests that if mesothelioma patients respond to social interaction in the same way that other cancers do, it may be beneficial for them to be in the company of those whose treatments have been relatively successful.
Mesothelioma’s treatment protocol generally involves a multi modality combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, with chemotherapy often being the primary therapy used. According to the new joint study conducted by researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute (which is part of the National Institutes of Health) and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, there are specific characteristics of social interactions among patients receiving chemotherapy that have a marked impact on overall survival.
The study, which was published in the journal Network Science, showed that when patients with cancer interacted with other patients who survived for five or more years, those patients also were more likely to live that long. Conversely, when chemotherapy patients were exposed to patients who survived for fewer than five years, they were also likely to die in less time.
Speaking to their findings, the study’s lead author Jeff Lienert said, “People model behavior based on what’s around them. For example, you will often eat more when you’re dining with friends, even if you can’t see what they’re eating. When you’re bicycling you will often perform better when you’re cycling with others, regardless of their performance.” He went on to explain how the study was conducted, looking back at medical records from 200 to 2009 and looking at how much time patients spent with specific other patients during the course of their treatment. Leinert said, “We had information on when patients checked in and out of the chemotherapy ward, a small intimate space where people could see and interact for a long period of time. We used ‘time spent getting chemotherapy in a room with others’ as a proxy for social connection.” Their study showed that patients who spent time with others who died in less than 5 years after chemotherapy, they had a 72 percent chance of doing the same. Chances of surviving more than 5 years increased when they were with those who had also survived the longer period. The shortest survival periods were found in those who were isolated.
Having appropriate support in all areas of life is essential for those who are battling mesothelioma. If you need assistance with legal matters or would like information on your rights, contact us at 1-800-966-2244.