Chemotherapy, the most commonly used treatment for those suffering from cancer, works by attacking malignant cells that are rapidly dividing in the body. This often has the unwanted side effect of killing off not only cancer cells but other rapidly dividing cells in the body (such as those in the mouth and digestive system) and can lead to a number of uncomfortable side effects.
Fortunately, scientists are continuing to test and experiment new types of treatments. Some of these emerging forms of treatment include:
Immunotherapy utilizes the body's immune system and natural defenses in order to strengthen the body's ability to fight cancer. Immunotherapy uses biological response modifiers (BRM's) to do this. Some BRM's such as cytokines and antibodies are naturally occurring in the body. New developments, however, have now made it possible to produce BRM's in the laboratory. BRM's may have the effect of reducing cancer growth; blocking or reversing the process that changes a normal cell to a cancer cell; and/or making cancer cells more susceptible to destruction by the immune system.
Anti-Angiogenesis treatment uses drugs or other substances to prevent tumors from creating new blood vessels thereby stopping the growth of the tumor. Anti-angiogenesis treatments do not attack cancer cells but rather attack the blood supply required by those cells to grow and multiply. Both natural and synthetic anti-angiogenesis inhibitors are currently being studied in clinical trials including trials of cisplatin, permetrexed and bevacizumab (for untreated Mesothelioma) and of bevacizumab and eriotinib (for previously treated Mesothelioma).
- Photodynamic Therapy:
Phytodynamic therapy works by injecting a photosensenitizing drug into the patient. The drug then operates by avoiding healthy cells and attacking diseased cells. Doctors can then use a special laser light capable of activating the photosensitizing agent. When the light hits the drug, surrounding cancer cells are destroyed.
- Gene Therapy:
Gene therapy involves removing, replacing or altering genes in order to treat or to prevent disease. To deliver new or changed genes to the correct location, scientists use carrier molecules called vectors. The most commonly used vector is actually a virus. Currently gene therapy is only targeted towards "somatic" cells and therefore cannot be passed down to any offspring. A clinical study of the treatment of malignant pleural Mesothelioma with gene modified cancer cells is currently underway at the Gene Therapy Laboratory at Louisiana State University.
- Hormone Replacement:
Hormones are known to increase the rate of cancer growth. Therefore, cancer scientists take advantage of this fact by blocking certain hormones or their receptors. This treatment is frequently used as a follow-up to other traditional treatments and may help to decrease the risk of cancer reoccurring in the body. Recent studies using dexamethasons, a synthetic hormone, yielded promising results for the treatment of patients with mesothelioma.
If chemotherapy isn't working for you, or you are interested in supplementing your existing treatment plan, you may want to talk to your doctor about utilizing another form of treatment.