Archive for September, 2011

New Chemotherapy Combination

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

In recent years, several clinical trials have shown promising results for the detection and prevention of mesothelioma. Here we will review these treatments and their potential effectiveness.

Chemotherapy is one form of mesothelioma treatment. To date, only one chemotherapy treatment (the combination of Alimta and Cislatin), has gained FDA approval. But new medications on the horizon may bring some good news to mesothelioma patients. A new drug, Onconase, may be one of the very first stem cell medications to make it all the way through clinical trails. This drug has a low toxicity, and is designed to shrink and then eliminate mesothelioma tumors. The FDA has placed Onconase on a fast track for approval because of its potential for helping mesothelioma patients. Yet another promising drug currently in clinical trails is Veglin. Veglin works by stabilizing and shrinking tumors. This drug is currently being tested on patients at the Keck School of Medicine at The University of California.

In addition to chemotherapies, other therapies are showing promise as well. Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy is now being used across the country. This type of radiation is more precise in its delivery, making the treatment potentially more effective. There are also gene therapies under trial that reportedly use genetically modified viruses to stimulate the immune system to kill cancer cells. And photodynamic therapy uses light to kill cancer cells.

When it comes to mesothelioma prevention and early detection, breakthroughs are happening in that area as well. The Fujirebo Diagnostics test, still under research, is the first biomarker test to use a simple blood screen to detect the presence of biomarkers for mesothelioma. Early diagnosis of mesothelioma is important for providing effective treatment, yet it is also a rare occurrence, as most mesothelioma patients do not notice their symptoms until it is too late.

While these research trials show great promise, it may be years before the treatments become available to the public. This is because the approval process is designed to ensure that patients are kept safe from dangerous side effects and that the effectiveness of the drug is proven.

If you would like more information on mesothelioma, its causes, or treatments, you are welcome to review our mesothelioma articles. If you feel we could be of assistance, please complete our online form, and we will be contact with you as soon as possible.


Do Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Differ?

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

A person who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or know someone who is, may have trouble understanding the cancerous condition and how it is distinct from other forms of cancer—in particular, lung cancer. The two forms of cancer are actually quite different. So what, exactly are the differences and what impact do those differences have?

One important difference between lung cancer and mesothelioma is how the two forms of cancer develop. Mesothelioma develops as an interconnected network of many tumors over a large area of tissue. Over time, the boundaries between healthy and cancerous tissue become indistinguishable. The structure and growth pattern of this form of cancer may dramatically limit options for patients receiving mesothelioma treatment. In many cases, removing malignant tissue becomes very difficult, if not impossible, because of the number of masses and the size of the affected area. Radiation works best on smaller areas of tissue, limiting its effectiveness with mesothelioma. Unfortunately, in many cases chemotherapy may not be sufficient to treat the large number of tumors. Eventually, these networks of masses overtake the tissue, limiting the movement of that tissue. Unfortunately, they tend to develop long before they become noticeable to the victim. By the time symptoms from the tumors are noticed, it is often too late for effective treatment.

The structure and growth of lung cancer is very different from that of mesothelioma. With lung cancer, tumors grow as distinct, individual masses, and boundaries of these masses are very clear. This is true even when there are several masses. While these isolated tumors can become very large and just as life threatening as mesothelioma, treatment may be more effective. Because the masses are so distinct, when caught early enough, they can sometimes be surgically removed. Radiation and chemotherapy tend to work better in these cases as well.

Other differences between these two forms of cancer include their rarity and their causes. In general, the incidence of mesothelioma is much smaller than that of lung cancer. Likewise, the causes of lung cancer can vary and overlap (including exposure to pesticides, heavy metals, pollutants, radon, and/or smoking), while mesothelioma causes are generally linked to asbestos exposure.

While there are many differences between these two forms of cancer, the early warning signs (when detected) of lung cancer and mesothelioma may be very similar. If you or someone you know is experiencing unusual and persistent respiratory symptoms, contact a doctor, as early detection may have a very real impact on the effectiveness of treatment.

For more information on mesothelioma, visit our mesothelioma and asbestos FAQ page, or read some of our mesothelioma articles.



Global Trends in the Use of Asbestos

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

The history of asbestos regulation and enforcement varies around the world. In many places, dramatic and permanent changes have occurred. Elsewhere, asbestos is still mined and used without regulation. Still other places have adequate regulations but a lack of enforcement to ensure that regulations are followed.

Since the late 1960’s and 70’s, the United States government has created valuable regulations and enforcement policies. Sadly, for many naval ship workers, miners and factory workers, these changes came too late. To date, an estimated 100,000 people have either died or will die from asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

Trade of asbestos from South Africa ended in 2003, through the result of international negotiations. This has had an impact on use in other countries, as South Africa was a significant exporter up to that point.

Most European countries have taken a proactive approach, banning asbestos. Still, the United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive, who is responsible for tracking issues related to asbestos, says that construction workers in business prior to 2000 should be aware of the possibility of having been exposed to asbestos.

While regulated, asbestos is not banned in Canada. In fact, Canada is home to the infamous Jeffrey Mine, formerly the largest mine in the world, located in a town named, aptly, Asbestos. The mine is the subject of great controversy. Although the government has spent millions of dollars on asbestos abatement and monitoring industries affected by mesothelioma, some are pushing to reopen the mine and export the Chrysotile to places like Pakistan and India, where there are no such regulations.

Certain researchers predict that in the coming decades, Latin America will experience a rise in mesothelioma, since many Latin American countries have not put adequate enforcement in place. Due to a lack of accurate data, the impact of this trend is unknown. In the meantime, many workers are reportedly still exposed on a regular basis to harmful levels of asbestos.

Spencer Johnson said, “Change happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go.” Sadly, Australia’s mesothelioma prevention measures represent that kind of change. In 2003, Australia banned the use of asbestos as a result of the tragic exposure of its workers and citizens to the Wittenoom blue asbestos mine. The mine stayed in operation for years after the Western Australia Health Department issued warnings about the risk of exposure. Although the mine was closed in 1966, it was too late for many workers, visitors and nearby residents who were exposed to extremely high levels of the potentially lethal material. Currently, Western Australia has the highest death rate from mesothelioma in the world.

Some of the most significant producers of asbestos and asbestos products are Asian or Pacific Island countries. China consumes approximately 600,000 tons in any given year. Although some Asian countries have bans and regulations in place, the large majority of Asian countries do not restrict the uses of asbestos.

International agreement is lacking about how to handle asbestos mining and exporting/importing. Because some industries currently depend on this material, it may be a slow and complicated process. Hopefully in the coming years, progress will be made toward global safety regulations and enforcement policies that protect everyone.

Mesothelioma Settlements

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Mesothelioma treatment has shown progress in recent years, including methods that may help extend life expectancy. Although there has been overall improvement in the treatment of mesothelioma, sadly, there is no cure for this devastating disease. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery comprise the most common treatments for mesothelioma. While none of these has resulted in a cure, the most effective treatment for lengthening life expectancy is pneumonectomy. Pneumonectomy involves the removal or a lung or part of a lung along with intensive chemotherapy.

As cancers go, the incidence of mesothelioma is comparatively rare. This fact comes with both benefits and disadvantages. Although this reduces the likelihood of any one individual contracting mesothelioma, the rarity of the disease has also led to fewer research dollars and a generally slow progress towards effective long-term treatment. Many people, however, have found assistance through Mesothelioma settlements.

One key factor in the history of asbestos and mesothelioma settlements is the degree to which major industries knew of the risk to their workers. A study at Harvard University showed that the annual number of mesothelioma cases among males in the U.S. neared its peak in 2000 and was expected to decline to approximately 500 cases per year by the year 2055. The heightened levels of exposure to asbestos in the 1930s through the 1960s coincided with in a spike in mesothelioma many years later. As various industries became aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure, their response to this risk varied. As a result, some industries took the measures needed to protect their workers, while others did not.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you might want to consider talking to a law firm that specializes in mesothelioma to find out whether you are entitled to mesothelioma settlements.  If you have questions, start by taking a look at our Mesothelioma FAQ, or simply contact us by filling out this online form or calling 800-723-3216.