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Posted on Wednesday, Sep 30, 2009

Texas Cancer Center Offers Hope to Mesothelioma Patients

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is working hard at achieving their vision of being the “premier cancer center in the world” through their initiatives in the research and treatment of mesothelioma. The cancer center has over 30 specialists on staff that supports their multi-disciplinary approach to treating mesothelioma patients. Their ongoing research and unique initiatives dedicated to finding a cure for mesothelioma makes them one of the few cancer centers in the world with a comprehensive program.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. Mesothelioma is highly aggressive and is resistant to many current treatments. Approximately 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, making this cancer difficult to treat and difficult to study. Currently there is no known cure for mesothelioma.

Distinctive Team Designed to Support Mesothelioma Patients

Dr. Anne Tsao, Assistant Professor in the Department of Thoracic Head and Neck Medical Oncology says that she is “very proud of the mesothelioma program” and the diversity of the members that support the patients and their family. The mesothelioma cancer department has over 30 experts representing the areas of thoracic surgery, thoracic medical oncology, radiation, pulmonary, and pathology – “all of whom have an expertise dedicated and focused on mesothelioma.”

Part of the “remarkable nature of the program,” according to Tsao, is the dedicated physician assistants that go into the community and teach about mesothelioma to the patients, family members, and caregivers on how to support patients working through the disease. In addition, social workers provide support and are committed to helping patients physically get to the Anderson Cancer Center by arranging transportation through Angel Flights.

Staging, Surgery and Dasatinib

Anderson treats approximately 150 mesothelioma patients each year, with the number continuing to grow. Dr. Reza Mehran, Professor of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, explains that accurate staging is an “important part in the management of the patient” and in determining those patients that are treatable through surgery.

Due to the diffusive nature of mesothelioma, only a small number of patients are candidates for resectable surgery to remove the tumor. Dr. Mehran believes that the best method to accurately determine the cancer stage, and thus to determine if the patient is a candidate for resectable surgery, is through a minimally invasive surgical technique.

In conjunction with the surgical staging, Anderson is conducting a clinical trial of Dasatinib. Patients with resectable malignant pleural mesothelioma are given the drug therapy prior to their resection. Dasatinib is being tested for the efficacy of preventing progression of the disease.

Additional Initiatives

Tsao is excited that Anderson is “moving towards a new era in treatment with personalized medicine.” She states that all of their clinical trials are focused on personalizing medicine. In addition to the Dasatinib trial, there are additional clinical trials aimed towards slowing the progression of mesothelioma.

In support their research, the cancer center has created a tissue bank. Each mesothelioma patient is requested to contribute a tissue block and blood specimen that can be used by their researchers in finding a cure for mesothelioma.

The experts on staff at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center offer treatment to their mesothelioma patients all at once with their multi-disciplinary approach. With each doctor on the team representing a key role in the treatment, the patient can receive all needed care in one location.

Message to Patients

Dr. Tsao and Dr. Mehran are both believers that one day The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center will find a cure for mesothelioma. Dr. Mehran would like patients to know that, “there is hope and there is a way to treat” their mesothelioma.

Dr. Mehran emphasizes that they will continue to make great strides to improve the quality of life of the patients. He says, “keep the hope up and we will do everything possible to manage your cancer.”

To listen to an interview of Dr. Tsao and Dr. Mehran listen to: “Cancer Newsline: Mesothelioma: New Advances”

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Nancy Meredith is a blog and web content writer with more than 20 years of professional experience in the Information Technology industry. She has been writing about Mesothelioma for 4 years. Follow Nancy on Google+

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