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Information Packet


New Treatments

New mesothelioma treatments are being evaluated in mesothelioma clinical trials in hopes of a mesothelioma cure. Mesothelioma clinical trials are research studies that evaluate new mesothelioma treatments for safety and efficiency. There are no guarantees that a treatment offered through a mesothelioma clinical trial will work, and because the treatments are in the trial stage, there are some risks. However, a mesothelioma clinical trial is not undertaken unless the researchers believe the treatment may have some value.

1. What is a clinical trial?
A mesothelioma clinical trial is a research study used to evaluate a treatment for efficacy and safety. It generally involves a novel approach to treatment, and is conducted by a university-affiliated hospital.

2. What are the benefits of participating in a clinical trial?

Standard treatments for mesothelioma have not proved very effective, so you may not have much to lose
You may not qualify for certain standard treatments for mesothelioma, such as surgery, because of your condition
During the trials, doctors and nurses with expertise in treating mesothelioma will closely monitor your health for side effects and changes in your condition
Part of the cost of treating your mesothelioma may be free
Personal satisfaction in advancing the treatment of mesothelioma and, some day, in the development of a cure.

3. What are the risks involved?
While strong efforts are made to ensure the safety of persons participating in clinical trials, some risks remain. As with all possible treatments of mesothelioma, discuss the risks with your doctor before you decide to participate.

Also, before you begin a mesothelioma clinical trial, you will be required to sign an informed consent form. By signing this document, you are stating that a healthcare provider has explained the risks and benefits associated with the mesothelioma treatment, and that you have agreed to the participation.

4. Some of the questions you might ask your doctor:

What does the mesothelioma trial hope to accomplish?
What are the chances of successfully treating my mesothelioma using standard therapies?
What side effects are expected, and are these worse than standard treatments of mesothelioma?
How long will the mesothelioma trial last?
What company or university is sponsoring the mesothelioma trial?
What will I have to pay for the mesothelioma treatment?
Will participating prevent me from being treated with other mesothelioma therapies?

5. Finding out about ongoing clinical trials
You should be able to obtain information from the doctor treating you for mesothelioma.

Also, call 1-800-362-1479 for an updated list of clinical trials.

6. Experimental Treatments of Mesothelioma
There are a number of experimental treatments for mesothelioma that are currently being evaluated. These include:

a) Drug Therapy - Alimta
Alimta (pemetrexed) is a new chemotherapy drug developed to treat pleural mesothelioma. A recently completed trial, one of the largest clinical trials for treatment of mesothelioma, was presented in 2002 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists. The results indicated that Alimta was the first treatment to significantly increase the length of survival, as well as relieve symptoms of mesothelioma.

b) Photodynamic Therapy
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) involves administering photosensitive drugs into the mesothelial cells. Doctors then use a laser light to activate the photosensitive drugs in order to destroy the surrounding cancer cells.

As yet, PDT has not shown success in improving the survival rate for mesothelioma patients.

c) Gene Therapy
Gene therapy is used to correct disease at the DNA level by compensating for abnormal genes. Several types of gene therapy are currently being studied for the treatment of mesothelioma. Although this treatment has proved successful in animal studies, the results in human studies have been disappointing.

d) Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy seeks to improve the immune system's natural ability to fight cancer. Studies have shown that the immune system distinguishes healthy cells from cancer cells in order to eliminate the cancerous cells.

Immunotherapy uses biological response modifiers (BRMs) to improve the body's natural ability to fight disease. (BRMs currently used include interferons, interleukins, monoclonal antibodies, tumor necrosis factors, and cancer vaccines.) This first involves the removal of healthy cells, which are then exposed to cytokines and antibodies. These enhanced cells are then reinstalled into the peritoneum, where they will enhance the body's ability to fight cancer.

Preliminary studies have shown significant shrinkage of mesothelioma tumors at very early stages of the disease. Much more research, however, is necessary to determine its efficacy as a treatment for malignant mesothelioma.

e) Multimodality Therapy
This type of therapy simply means the use of any combination of surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy to treat mesothelioma. The most common form combines surgery with intercavitary radiation or chemotherapy, both before and after, to remove and eliminate mesothelioma.