OncoBone was contacted by Mesothelioma Hope to discuss the possibility to help raise awareness of mesothelioma, a rare cancer mainly caused by exposure to asbestos. As oncology is one of OncoBone’s areas of expertise, agreed to write a blog post to highlight the issue for our network.
To our surprise, during the writing process we noted that for example in our home country, Finland, there is not much information available about mesothelioma from the public healthcare sources even though the National Cancer Registry and Cancer Foundation acknowledge that the incidence of mesothelioma is increasing. This increase occurs even though asbestos exposure is a known risk factor and there are precautions taken to protect the persons at most risk.
This was also summarized at National level in Finland in a recent article in Duodecim titled: ‘asbestos-related diseases are still relevant’. You can read the full article in Finnish from the following link: https://www.duodecimlehti.fi/duo14926.
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare cancer and the only known cause of it is asbestos exposure. Therefore, people such as construction and factory workers are at most risk. Read more about asbestos exposure from the following link: https://www.mesotheliomahope.com/asbestos/exposure/.
Mesothelioma develops within the lining of the lungs (pleural) or abdomen (peritoneal). In rare cases, mesothelioma tumors can grow in the linings of the heart (pericardium) or testes (tunica vaginalis).
Mesothelioma displays distinct symptoms depending on where the tumors first formed. That said, some general mesothelioma symptoms are common among most patients, including fatigue, fever, fluid buildup in the chest (pleural effusions) or abdomen (ascites), loss of appetite and night sweats. Patients whose cancer has not yet spread usually experience mild and vague symptoms and aren’t aware that they’re sick until their cancer is advanced.
Getting an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis from a specialist is the first step in receiving treatment. A tissue or fluid biopsy from the mesothelioma tumor is the only way to confirm diagnosis.
Mesothelioma has four stages of disease from a localized tumor to metastatic disease. In metastatic mesothelioma, palliative care can help patients manage their mesothelioma symptoms and improve their quality of life. The average life expectancy for mesothelioma is 12-21 months with treatment. Seeing a mesothelioma specialist is important to receive a custom treatment plan involving surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and new treatments that help extend life.
Mesothelioma existing and emerging treatment options
The most common mesothelioma treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of the three. Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, top doctors work closely with their patients and healthcare support teams to develop effective, personalized cancer care plans that reduce symptoms and increase survival time.
Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma may be able to participate in a clinical trial. Mesothelioma clinical trials test upcoming treatments to find ways to help patients live longer. Emerging mesothelioma treatments in clinical trials include anti-angiogenesis drugs, gene therapy and photodynamic therapy.
A therapy called Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) was approved for use in treating pleural mesothelioma in 2019. The therapy disrupts the cancer’s ability to spread and it is currently used alongside chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy development for mesothelioma has provided some success in recent years. One of the most notable new treatment options for pleural mesothelioma combining two immunotherapy drugs nivolumab (Opdivo®) and ipilimumab (Yervoy®) was approved by the FDA in October 2020. Further, a combination of two other immunotherapy drugs — atezolizumab (Tecentriq®) and bevacizumab (Avastin®) was recently reported to help in peritoneal mesothelioma.
If you are interested to learn more about immunotherapy treatment of mesothelioma, please see the following selected scientific articles:
- Han Y, Zhang T, Chen H, Yang X. Global magnitude and temporal trend of mesothelioma burden along with the contribution of occupational asbestos exposure in 204 countries and territories from 1990 to 2019: Results from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2022 Nov;179:103821.
- Dacic S. Pleural mesothelioma classification – update and challenges. Mod Pathol. 2022 Jan;35(Suppl 1):51-56.
- Fennell DA, Dulloo S, Harber J. Immunotherapy approaches for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2022 Sep;19(9):573-584.
Disclaimer in Finnish: Yllä esitetty tieto perustuu Mesothelioma Hope -yhdistyksen jakamaan tietoon, jonka oikeellisuus on tarkistettu. Mesoteliooman ilmaantuvuus, elinajanennuste ja saatavilla olevat hoitomuodot saattavat olla erilaiset Suomessa. Mikäli aihe on sinulle ajankohtainen, ole yhteydessä hoitavaan lääkäriisi.