This post is written by Katie Andrus, Student at Globe University Green Bay for a scholarship from MesotheliomaHelp.net.
The American Cancer Society has recently reported that 1.6 million Americans suffer from cancer. Cancer can be caused by heredity (medical family history) or from carcinogens (environmental risks either man made or naturally occurring). An estimated 75-80% of cancer cases and cancer related deaths are related to carcinogens. Of these estimated cases, 4% of them are linked to occupational hazards (American Cancer Society, 2012). Mesothelioma is a cancer that is most prevalently caused by the carcinogen, asbestos. “Contrary to what many people believe, asbestos is not and has never been banned in the United States. In 1976, Congress passed a law to regulate toxic substances (known as the Toxic Substances Control Act) but a total ban was not suggested. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized regulations to ban asbestos under the aforementioned act, but two years later, a New Orleans circuit court of appeal overturned the regulation. The result was that new uses of the dangerous mineral were banned but old ones remained” (Mesothelioma & AsbestosAwarenessCenter, 2011).
Those most likely to be exposed to asbestos were men who worked in the shipyards during WWII. At that time there were about 4 million other Americans who were employed at similar locations all around the country. Other occupation locations that have exhibited high risk to asbestos exposure are: railroads, automotive repair, contractors/construction workers, power plants, oil refineries, steel mills, asbestos product manufacturers, mines and firefighters (Mesothelioma & AsbestosAwarenessCenter, 2010).
The Mayo Clinic website defines Mesothelioma as “a rare cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority of your internal organs.” When an abnormal or genetically mutated cell reproduces at a rapid rate this is the beginning stage of cancer. “Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma aren’t specific to this disease and, due to the rarity of mesothelioma, are more likely to be related by other conditions ( Mayo Clinic Staff, 2010).”
Common treatments of mesothelioma are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The surgery options are: wide local excision, pleurectomy and decortication, extrapleural pneumonectomy, and pleurodesis. Radiation therapy includes external and internal “cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing”. The last type of treatment for mesothelioma is chemotherapy. This type of treatment “uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing or multiplying. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth in pill form or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the entire body (systemic chemotherapy)” (Treatment Options). The Mayo Clinic also includes treatments such as combination therapy, and clinical trials, and thoracentesis ( Mayo Clinic Staff, 2010).
On August 30, 2012 a post was launched on the Surviving Mesothelioma: A Patient’s Guide website, as a “novel treatment” for mesothelioma. This revolutionary treatment option is to use “a drug currently used to treat colorectal cancer and some types of head and neck cancer”. The idea for this new treatment came from “the overexpression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). EGFR is overexpressed by mesothelioma cells and several other types of cancer cells. The monoclonal antibody cetuximab, which is derived from human-mouse hybrid cells, targets EGFR and induces antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). Although cetuximab is used to treat some other types of cancer, it has not been well studied in mesothelioma. Now, a team of Japanese researchers has released a study suggesting that cetuximab may by an alternative for mesothelioma patients who fail to respond to treatment. (Monoclonal Antibody a ‘Novel treatment’ for Mesothelioma?, 2012)” Additionally, Asbestos.com lists intensity modulated radiation therapy, gene therapy, and biomarkers as novel procedures (Mesothelioma Research: Asbestos.com, 2012).
This study was conducted on mice by first measuring the EGFR expression in mesothelioma cells, “then exposed those cells to cetuximab and measured their growth.” “In a summary of their findings in The International Journal of Oncology, the researchers report, “In the mouse model, cetuximab treatment… significantly inhibited intrathoracic tumor growth and prolonged their survival” (Monoclonal Antibody a ‘Novel treatment’ for Mesothelioma?, 2012)”.
Dr Anna L. Kaplan has come up with tips to cope with the side effects of treatments for mesothelioma. These tips include acupuncture, yoga, meditation, pet therapy, supplements and TENS therapy. These alternate treatments do not cure cancer, but may help reduce cancer related pain, reduce nausea and vomiting, discomfort, experience fewer cancer-related symptoms, and provide relaxing and stress-relieving remedies (Kaplan M.D.).
With up and coming medical advances and of Mesothelioma and alternate treatments of this disease and its side effects, it proves that Mesothelioma is not a death sentence. It is a manageable cancer with future treatment options are emerging on the horizon.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010, August 7). Mesothelioma: Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 5, 2012, from Mayoclinic.com: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mesothelioma/
Mesothelioma Research: Asbestos.com. (2012, September 4). Retrieved September 5, 2012, from Asbestos.com: Brought to you by The Mesothelioma Center: http://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/research/php
Monoclonal Antibody a ‘Novel treatment’ for Mesothelioma? (2012, August 30). Retrieved September 3, 2012, from Mesothelioma: A Patient’s Guide: http://www.survivingmesothelioma.com/news/view.asp?ID=001355
American Cancer Society. (2012). Cancer Facts and Figures 2012.Atlanta: American Cancer Sociaty.
Kaplan M.D., A. L. (n.d.). Alternative Mesothelioma Treatments. Retrieved September 3, 2012, from Mesothelioma.US National Info: http://www.mesothelioma.us/pages/treatment/alternative-mesothelioma-treatment.php
Mesothelioma & Asbestos AwarenessCenter. (2010, December 28). Mesothelioma & Asbestos AwarenessCenter: Asbestos in the workplace. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from Mesothelioma & AsbestosAwarenessCenter: http://www.maacenter.org/asbestos/workplace/
Mesothelioma & Asbestos AwarenessCenter. (2011, April 15). Mesothelioma & Asbestos AwarenessCenter. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from Mesothelioma & AsbestosAwarenessCenter: Asbestos Cancer: http://www.maacenter.org/asbestos/cancer.php
Treatment Options. (n.d.). Retrieved September 3, 2012, from Mesothelioma And Lung Cancer: http://www.mesothelioma-lung-cancer.org/mesothelioma-treatments.html?c=google&kw=mesothelioma%20treatment%20in&gclid=CJT28ufimbICFce8KgodeWcASQ