Speed of Tumor Recurrence can Help Predict Success of Second Surgery

Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight a new study recently published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery examining the speed of tumor growth in mesothelioma patients after the first resection surgery and how it affected the second surgery’s outcome. The study was conducted by researchers at Stanford University.

For patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma, initial surgeries are often recommended to attempt to remove tumors from the chest cavity. Since mesothelioma refers to the cancer of the lining of the lungs, however, surgeries can be extremely difficult and complex, unlikely to completely resect all the cancerous tissue.

Thus, if patients are physically stable and willing, doctors often suggest second surgeries to try to remove the remaining tumors and prevent spread. Stanford researchers noted that the ipsilateral hemithorax – meaning one specific side of the chest cavity – is the most common site of recurrence in mesothelioma patients.

Salvage treatment after the first surgery, sadly, is generally ineffective due to the nature of mesothelioma, its causes and lack of response to traditional cancer treatments. Researchers examined data from mesothelioma resection procedure patients who were then treated for cancer recurrence, that occurred at Stanford between 1988 and 2011.

All data from these patients, totaling over 1,100, were retrospectively reviewed for the study. The mesothelioma patients initially underwent eight an extrapleural pneumonectomy, or pleurectomy/decortication (two procedures we have written extensively about regarding the pros and cons of each).

Of the patients who returned for follow-ups, about 4% had cancerous recurrence in the chest wall that showed potential for additional resection. The average amount of time it took to detect recurrence after the initial procedure was about 16 months (ranging between 2 and 58 months). The median length of hospital stay was about three days, and the median overall survival after initial surgery was generally a good indicator of the time it took to recur. Researchers concluded that chest wall resection is a safe and at least partially effective treatment for mesothelioma, and that the time to recurrence appears to predict overall expected survival.

Mesothelioma therapy research has made great gains in the past decade or so; the disease was always treated with traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and resective therapy. It quickly became clear that mesothelioma was not well responding to these treatments, and medical researchers looked to other modes of therapy to treat this debilitating and extremely fatal illness.

Specifically, researchers have been emphasizing targeted gene therapy and immunotherapy for patients with mesothelioma, and many clinical trials are showing immense promise. Gene therapy aims to determine and target the specific genes present or over-expressed in patients with mesothelioma, and develop a drug that can target and destroy the cancerous cells.

Immunotherapies are also receiving increased attention (most recently by Merck, AstraZeneca, Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb). Big Pharma’s new drugs, for which they are currently conducting clinical trials, are aimed at using and manipulating the body’s own immune system to fight off and kill the cancer cells.

A normal, healthy immune system destroys cells it recognizes as foreign, such as viruses and bacterium. Cancer cells, however, are produced within the body and are therefore not recognized as foreign, and not fought off. Immunotherapy then attempts to re-circuit the immune system to recognize cancer cells as foreign, boosting its ability to target, destroy, and prevent their spread.

Mesothelioma attorneys will continue to report on any new, relevant studies and medical developments related to mesothelioma and all other asbestos-related illnesses. If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and developed lung cancer or mesothelioma, we are here to help. We have decades of experience litigating these types of cases and have won millions for our clients.

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