Malignant pleural mesothelioma has a reputation for being difficult to beat. In fact, one-year survival generally ranges from 50% to 75% with treatment. If a study reported 100% survival at one year after diagnosis, that would be big news.
Well, a group of Italian doctors recently shared big news. In a study, patients had a 100% survival rate one year after being diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Some may assume these patients received a complicated new treatment, but they did not. Study patients underwent multimodal treatment, which is a common approach.
Multimodal treatments combine two or more mesothelioma therapies into a single plan. One common multimodal approach combines surgery with chemotherapy. The chemotherapy may occur before or after surgery. It may also occur before and after surgery.
Unusually High Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rate Tied to Combination Treatment
The Italian study combined three common treatments. Patients first received standard chemotherapy. Next, they underwent surgery to remove the lining around the lung. After surgery, patients received a heated form of chemotherapy called HITHOC.
HITHOC stands for heated intrathoracic chemotherapy. This treatment puts hot, concentrated chemo drugs directly into the chest cavity. The heat and drug concentration enhance the cancer-killing effects of the chemo. Keeping the drugs in the chest cavity also helps limit some side effects.
All the study patients survived one year or longer. This success may be a result of doctors carefully designing their treatment approach. This may have involved analyzing the strong and weak points of mesothelioma surgery.
- Strength: Studies show that the more cancer a surgery removes, the longer patients generally live. This may be because there are fewer cells left behind, making it less likely for new tumors to develop.
- Weakness: Surgery alone does not extend mesothelioma survival. This may be because some cells are left behind, making it possible for new tumors to develop from remaining cells.
In the Italian study, doctors turned both factors into strengths. They administered chemo first to shrink tumors. In theory, this cut down on the amount of cancer surgeons needed to remove. With fewer cancer cells to start with, surgeons may have had an easier time getting most or all the tumors out.
After surgery, the HITHOC treatment targeted mesothelioma cells the surgeon was unable to remove. HITHOC puts strong chemo drugs right where mesothelioma cells are found. This may have killed many cells left behind after surgery.
Overall, this series of treatments used thoughtful approaches to improve mesothelioma survival.
What Does This Mean for Future Pleural Mesothelioma Patients?
Several factors make it difficult to predict how this study may affect future patients.
- Recently completed: Patients enrolled in this study between 2017 and 2020. The study doctors and facilities were modern and may reflect what future patients would encounter. This points to the potential for future patients to experience similar care and survival.
- Few study patients: This study enrolled fewer than 25 patients. With so few patients, the study results may differ from real-world experiences on a larger scale.
So it may be too soon to know if future patients will see this degree of treatment success. But this study can offer some helpful reminders. First, doctors are still doing mesothelioma research, working to improve survival and quality of life. Second, sometimes a new way of using a classic treatment can work surprisingly well.