Through the years, health care professionals have searched long and hard for a cure for all types of cancer. Though some of these efforts have been rewarded with successful remissions, when it comes to mesothelioma there has been no such breakthrough. As scientists and researchers continue to work towards a cure, those who are actually working with patients on a day-to-day basis have had to find the treatment protocols that have yielded the most positive results, however small the improvements they provide. At this point, the solution that has given malignant mesothelioma patients the longest survival times and best quality of life for the time remaining to them has been multimodal therapy that combines surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These three treatments together have proven to be much more successful than any of them used alone.
What is Multimodal Therapy
There are three proven treatment protocols that have been used in the fight against malignant mesothelioma: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Used separately, each of these approaches has shown some success, but none so much as has been seen when they are combined and used together. This multimodal therapy has become the gold standard of treating malignant mesothelioma, whether it involves using just two traditional therapies such as surgery and chemotherapy, or whether it also includes new treatment protocols such as immunotherapy or gene therapy.
Mesothelioma physicians have not yet come to a conclusion as to which combination of treatment protocols is most effective to treat this rare and fatal form of cancer, and this is in large part due to the fact that every patient is unique. Much of a treatment strategy’s success has to do with the individual patient’s age, medical history, type of mesothelioma and mesothelioma cell type. As more patients are treated and more studies are done on what has worked for each, specialists have come to the conclusion that trimodal therapy including radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery is what is currently yielding the best results. This is the approach that is used by such esteemed medical institutions as the National Comprehensive Cancer Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
How is Multimodal Therapy Administered?
Every patient who has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma goes through an individual evaluation to determine what treatment course will provide them with the optimal outcomes, but in most cases the therapy starts with either radiation therapy or chemotherapy that is designed to shrink the size of their tumors. This is referred to as induction therapy.
After induction therapy is completed, the next step is usually surgical resection of the malignant tumors. In some cases the tumors may be subjected to chemotherapy instead, but this is generally only the case when the patient is not a good candidate for surgery.
Finally, the patient undergoing trimodal therapy receives a followup treatment that is meant to delay the return of the cancer and to provide them with palliative care that minimizes pain and other mesothelioma symptoms.
Side Effects of Multimodal Therapy for Mesothelioma
As is true with most cancer treatments, the use of chemotherapy and radiation therapy comes with uncomfortable and sometimes painful complications and side effect. Every patient will respond differently to these protocols, but should be provided with advance warnings of what they may experience, as well as with ways to manage their discomfort. Side effects can include:
- Skin burns
- Loss of hair
- Loss of appetite
- Weakening of the immune system
Innovation in the Treatment of Mesothelioma
Though most multimodal therapies in use today involve surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, there are a number of state-of-the-art treatments that are currently in the clinical testing stage. In addition to scientific breakthroughs in gene therapy and immunology, mesothelioma physicians are beginning to take a close look at cryotherapy, which is a method of killing the mesothelioma cells by injecting them with a needle filled with a solution that freezes them. There are a number of advantages to this and other therapies currently being tested, including the ability to eliminate the side effects that accompany the use of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
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