Mesothelioma Cancer: What Is It? And What Therapies Are Available For It?
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Mesothelioma Cancer and Therapy!

Mesothelioma Cancer is a serious condition that affects many lives. The difficulty of treatment depends on the progression of the illness. Naturally, in any type of cancer, the worse the condition, the more difficult it is to treat. But there are some cases where there is not sufficient amount of research to pinpoint effective treatment for certain cancers. So, there is not much that medicine can do about them. However, it all depends on the type of cancer discussed. There are many different types of this sometimes fatal disease. One of such types of cancer is mesothelioma.



Introduction

The name mesothelioma cancer is derived from the mesothelium. It is a “mesoderm cell layer that lines the embryonic coelom (body cavity)” (Panadero, 2015, p.178). Therefore, there are many types of mesothelioma cancer that exist, since this cell layer lines many organs. For example, it lines the stomach (peritoneal mesothelioma), lungs (pleural mesothelioma), heart (pericardial mesothelioma) or testicles and affects more men than women (NHS, 2016).

The reason to this is because men are more likely to engage in jobs that expose them to causes of this illness. Those (causes) shall be discussed later. Mesothelioma cancer is difficult to spot as its symptoms can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years to appear (Selby, 2017). Once diagnosed, treatment must take place immediately. Mazurek, Syamlal, Wood, Hendricks, and Weston (2017) state that on average, patients only have one-year survival rate from the time of diagnosis. Mesothelioma cancer is indeed difficult to stop and does not display signs of development until decades later.



Causes of Mesothelioma Cancer

What causes this cancer? “It is a very moot point.”

Asbestos

However, exposure to asbestos is one of the main culprits (American Cancer Society, 2015). When inhaled, they may cause damage to one’s cells inside their lungs because of the fibers that asbestos contains. The Same principle applies to peritoneal mesothelioma: inhaled asbestos fibers get coughed up and then swallowed. This results in damage to cells in a person’s stomach, causing cancer to develop. Asbestos is also the reason why mesothelioma infects men more than women. They were more likely to have worked in mines, factories, on railroads, all of which contain a lot of exposure to this mineral.

Zeolites

Another potential cause may be zeolites. They are minerals with chemical relation to asbestos. One of them is erionite, which is found in rocky parts of Turkey as well as its soil, needless to say, high numbers of mesothelioma cancer have been spotted in this area (American Cancer Society, 2015). It seems that exposure to these minerals causes high damage to people’s health.

Radiation

Another cause for developing mesothelioma cancer is radiation. It occurs after a patient receives radiation therapy as a treatment for another cancer (American Cancer Society, 2015). The radiation used in this type of therapy is extremely high and has a risk of causing damage to healthy cells that surround a tumorous area. However, this is a rare scenario and not commonly observed in patients who have undergone radiation therapy.

SV40 Virus

Lastly, another cause for developing mesothelioma cancer is the simian virus 40 (SV40 virus). Research has shown that after injecting this virus to animals, they started to display signs of mesothelioma shortly after (American Cancer Society, 2015). This virus was also found in biopsies of humans who have suffered from this cancer. However, simultaneous exposure to asbestos seems to increase the risk of development of mesothelioma cancer. Hence, this keeps asbestos as the top cause of developing this illness.

Therapies Available



Unfortunately, little information is available about curing mesothelioma cancer. However, its symptoms can be controlled and attempted to be kept at a minimum. There are two types of treatments available for this cancer: conventional and emerging.

Conventional therapies include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation while emerging treatments offer immunotherapy, gene therapy, cryotherapy and others (Heil, 2017). It is important to spot the disease early, so patients have a higher chance of prolonging their life and keeping the symptoms at bay.

However, below are the list of available treatments:

Surgery

Surgery is often thought of as a go-to option by the general public. However, in case of mesothelioma cancer, it may not be the most effective option (Panadero, 2015, p.179). Simply because of the reason that diagnosis of the illness comes late. This process includes removing any tumors that may be found on the mesothelium.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a very popular treatment when attempting to cure cancer. A special medication is used to shrink cancer cells and prevent them from spreading. There are many different types of chemotherapy medication, however, the principle that they operate on is nearly the same (NHS, 2017). However, there are side-effects to this treatment because of which some patients may decline to go through it and opt for different solutions.

Radiation

Radiation is a treatment different from chemotherapy. This treatment uses high-dose radiation to kill cancer cells at a molecular level, specifically in cases where they replicate quickly as seen in mesothelioma cancer (Heil, 2017). Normally, this treatment keeps cells from reproducing which is why many who oppose surgery and chemotherapy favor this treatment. However, radiation is not an ideal treatment for cancers that have spread to other body parts. It also runs the risk of damaging healthy parts of a patient’s body by exposing it to high doses of radiation.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy, also known as biotherapy, is available to mesothelioma cancer patients through clinical trials. There are four types of this therapy in development: checkpoint inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, therapeutic vaccines and adoptive cell therapy (Heil, 2017). The principle of this therapy is straightforward. Immunotherapy uses “parts of the immune system to fight… cancer” (Heil, 2017). However, this therapy is still in development. Although, immunotherapy shows effectiveness when used along with other therapies used to treat cancer.

To perform immunotherapy effectively, immune cells need certain checkpoints (molecules) to activate or inactivate in order to trigger a response (Heil, 2017). Therefore, checkpoint inhibitors are under excessive research. With more knowledge on how to activate or block certain cells, immunotherapy shall bring more effectiveness.

Monoclonal Antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies target potential tumors and stop them from developing. They can treat lung cancer and, currently, scientists are conducting more research on these antibodies. Hopefully, there will be progress and significant results on whether this can be something to help cure mesothelioma cancer.

Therapeutic Vaccines

Therapeutic vaccines are exactly what they sound like. These are vaccines that provoke a “response against tumor-specific antigens” (Heil, 2017). More research is necessary in order to determine its effect on mesothelioma cancer.

Adoptive Cell Therapy

Adoptive cell therapy is a process where T cells are extracted from patients and are injected back after they have been modified either genetically or with chemicals (Heil, 2017). It is stated that there has been a larger anticancer immune response observed in modified T cells. However, there is not enough research so far that could display significant improvement for patients with mesothelioma cancer.

Gene Therapy

Gene therapy is not only to treat an already existing cancer but also as a preventive method for people who are at risk of developing the illness. This type of therapy replaces genes that are faulty with ones that function properly. And it is the most promising treatment for mesothelioma cancer (Heil, 2017). The therapy often causes cancerous cells to starve or attack themselves. Hence, it is highly likely to keep mesothelioma cancer symptoms down.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy is freezing the cancer cells. They are exposed to extreme cold to the point that they are killed (Selby, 2017). This is one of the better treatments for mesothelioma cancer. Simply because it can withstand high temperatures (Heil, 2017). However, extreme cold seems to have an opposite effect on the illness.

Worldwide Research for Mesothelioma Treatment

Researchers continue to look for new treatments for mesothelioma cancer and this task has been a global one. Worldwide Cancer Research has possibly found a potential new treatment for this type of cancer. Benett (2015) states that a protein eIF6 is found in cancerous cells and it has shown to be deactivated by a drug called Enzastaurin. This caused an overall reduction in the growth of mesothelioma cancer cells as well as its spreading.

Also, discussion on a possible asbestos ban has taken place. As it has shown to be a significantly carcinogenic mineral, authorities have attempted to cease production and use of it (Frank & Joshi, 2014). Although a difficult process, the potential reduction in exposure to asbestos shall largely decrease the number of people with mesothelioma cancer.

Lastly, clinical trials continuously take place. This is research that involves people and each trial has a unique aim. As of April 2015, nearly 250 clinical trials have been conducted for mesothelioma cancer worldwide (Asbestos, 2017). Scientists are always conducting research on new ways to treat cancer, no matter the type. In a certain period of time, new treatments shall arrive for this difficult illness.

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References

American Cancer Society. (2015). What Are the Risk Factors for Malignant Mesothelioma? American Cancer Society. Retrieved from <https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html>

Asbestos. (2017). Mesothelioma Statistics. Asbestos.com. Retrieved from <https://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/statistics.php>

Benett, L. (2015). Hope for People with Mesothelioma. Worldwide Cancer Research. Retrieved from <https://www.worldwidecancerresearch.org/blog-post/hope-for-people-with-mesothelioma/>

Frank, A.L., Joshi, T.K. (2014). The Global Spread of Asbestos. PubMed. Retrieved from <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25459326>

Heil, D. (2017). Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center. Retrieved from <https://www.maacenter.org/mesothelioma/>

Mazurek, J. M., Syamlal, G., Wood, J. M., Hendricks, S. A., Weston, A. (2017). Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality – United States, 1999-2015. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from <https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6608a3.htm>

NHS. (2016). Mesothelioma. NHS Choices. Retrieved from <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/mesothelioma/Pages/Definition.aspx>

—. (2017). Chemotherapy. NHS Choices. Retrieved from <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chemotherapy/Pages/Definition.aspx>

Panadero, F. R. (2015). Diagnosis and Treatment of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Archivos de Bronconeumologia, 51(4), p.178-179.

Selby, K. (2017). Mesothelioma. Asbestos.com. Retrieved from <https://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/>

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