National Cancer Research Month is an Opportunity to Raise Awareness of Mesothelioma Research Progress
Patients suffering from mesothelioma are often faced with frustration and despair when it comes time to develop their treatment plan. The reason being that currently there is no effective treatment for the incurable cancer, and the average survival time is less than 18 months. However, it’s not for lack of work by researchers. Now, in support of cancer researchers who dedicate their career to the “conquest of cancer,” the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) acknowledges May as National Cancer Research Month, as declared by the United States Congress in 2007 and 2011.
Research into cancer treatments is a long process, often taking years to realize any results. According to the AACR, cancer is more treatable and preventable than ever before, but more work needs to be done. With a goal to accelerate “progress in the conquest of cancer by providing financial support for cancer research that has the highest potential for impact,” the AACR hopes to continue the forward progress in cancer research.
Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer typically affecting the lining of the lungs, is highly aggressive and is resistant to many cancer treatments making it a difficult disease to treat effectively. 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year. Recently, however, there have been significant breakthroughs in mesothelioma research.
Just last month, Dr. Daniel Sterman of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine reported on a clinical trial that showed an 80 percent response rate to a combination of gene therapy and standard chemotherapy in mesothelioma victims.
In addition, various mesothelioma researchers have been focusing on increasing survival and minimizing side effects from the treatment. Much of the research is still in the lab, and some promising research projects, such as that by Swedish researcher Dr. Stefan Nilsson focusing on mesothelioma patients’ genetic traits, are still in the funding phase.
AACR Past-president Judy E. Garber, M.D., M.P.H, identified three challenges cancer researchers face:
- Funding. Garber notes that cancer research is a big enterprise, and it is expensive. Funding comes from many resources, however, funding from the public is extremely critical.
- Cancer is not one disease. Cancer is many diseases and the medical needs vary from cancer to cancer, and in some cases, from patient to patient. Something so immense requires many people working on the problem.
- Access issues. There are new drugs that look effective and there are old drugs that are proven effective in many cases. But, Garber notes, these drugs must be accessible to everyone.
Garber pointed out that everyone can help cancer research in some way. For those that are able, making a monetary donation in support of a patient or cancer survivor can aid in funding critical research. Participating in a clinical trial as a patient seeking treatment, or as a healthy participant supporting the prevention of cancer, can keep research moving. In addition, learning about cancer and being an informed member of the public can help lower the number of cancer diagnoses in the country.
“Cancer research is the way forward, it’s the way to make things better,” said Garber. And this is what keeps mesothelioma patients, advocates and their doctors hopeful.