In addition to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, which may be considered as “conventional treatments”, there are a number of developing or “novel” therapies which are still being tested for safety and effectiveness. Some of these novel therapies are described here.
Immunotherapy is based on the body’s natural defense system, which protects us against a variety of diseases.
There is evidence that in many cancer patients the immune system slows down the growth and spread of tumors. The goal of immunotherapy is to harness and enhance the body’s natural tendency to defend itself against malignant tumors.
Immunotherapies involving certain cytokines and antibodies have become part of standard cancer treatment and have only recently been used in the treatment of mesothelioma.
Interferons belong to a group of proteins known as cytokines. They are produced naturally by white blood cells in the body (or in the laboratory) in response to infection, inflammation, or stimulation.
There are a number of different interferons. They fall into three main classes: alpha, beta, and gamma. All are proteins (lymphokines) normally produced by the body in response to infection. The interferons have been synthesized using recombinant DNA technology.
Interferon-alpha was one of the first cytokines to show an antitumor effect, and it is able to slow tumor growth directly, as well as help to activate the immune system.
Interleukin is a biological response modifier (substance that can improve the body’s natural response to infection and disease) that helps the immune system fight infection and cancer. These substances are normally produced by the body. They are also made in the laboratory for use in treating cancer and other diseases.
Gene Therapy is the insertion of genes into an individual’s cells and tissues to treat a disease, such as a hereditary disease in which a deleterious mutant allele is replaced with a functional one. Although the technology is still in its infancy, it has been used with some success. Antisense therapy is not strictly a form of gene therapy, but is a genetically-mediated therapy and is often considered together with other methods.
Cryoablation is an alternative minimally invasive procedure, showing promise with mesothelioma patients. It uses controlled freezing to dissipate small cancer tumors in a relatively safe and quick manner. With the use of a large needle, compressed argon gas is applied to the targeted tissue, killing the cells it touches.
Used adjunctively with standard therapies for mesothelioma, cryoablation can effectively improve both survival and quality of life. It can be used on surrounding small lesions in order to make a patient eligible for future surgery such as the pleurectomy / decortication (P/D) or extra-pleuralpneumonectomy (EPP) or it can be administered to localized recurrences of disease post-surgically. It can also improve the patient’s quality of life when used in a palliative manner to control the pain associated with invading tumor.
Anti-Angiogenesis Tumor angiogenesis is the proliferation of a network of blood vessels that penetrates into cancerous growths, supplying nutrients and oxygen and removing waste products. Tumor angiogenesis actually starts with cancerous tumor cells releasing molecules that send signals to surrounding normal host tissue. This signaling activates certain genes in the host tissue that, in turn, make proteins to encourage growth of new blood vessels.
Angiogenesis Inhibitors are drugs that block the development of new blood vessels, the process known as angiogenesis.
By blocking the development of new blood vessels, researchers hope to cut off the tumor’s supply of oxygen and nutrients. This in turn might stop the tumor from growing and spreading to other parts of the body.