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Penn Researchers Achieved “Unusually Long Survival” in Mesothelioma Patients With Lung-Sparing Surgery and Photodynamic Therapy

Mesothelioma DoctorResearchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania were able to validate the results of a study they started last year:  malignant pleural mesothelioma patients who underwent radical pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) in combination with photodynamic therapy (PDT), have shown unusually long overall survival.  After nearly tripling the number of patients tested in the latest round of the study, Penn researchers achieved median survival rates up to two or more years longer than is reported with traditional treatments.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the lining of the lungs usually associated with inhaling asbestos fibers. Symptoms of mesothelioma typically appear 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos, but once mesothelioma is diagnosed, the average survival is just nine to 12 months.  Due to the complex growth pattern of the cancer, complete surgical removal of the tumors is very difficult. 

Thoracic surgeons have debated which of the two popular mesothelioma surgeries are most effective for extending mesothelioma patients’ survival – P/D or extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP).  P/D surgery is considered “lung-sparing” as surgeons strip away the diseased membrane lining the lung and visible mesothelioma tumors, but spare the lung. EPP is a more radical surgical procedure that involves removal of a lung, the diseased lining of the chest cavity and heart, and a portion of the diaphragm.

In the study, led by Dr. Joseph Friedberg, co-director of the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program, 38 pleural mesothelioma patients underwent lung-sparing surgery followed by PDT. PDT is a light-based cancer treatment using non-burning laser lights to treat mesothelioma.  The researchers chose P/D over EPP saying patients that have both lungs maintain a higher quality of life allowing them to better tolerate additional treatments for recurrence of cancer.

Thirty-seven of the 38 patients in the study had advanced stage mesothelioma.  The median survival of the patients was 31.7 months. The researchers said that essentially all mesothelioma patients experience a recurrence of cancer, even with aggressive treatment.  But the researchers are focused on extending the patients’ lives and the quality of their lives.

“While I don’t consider anything short of a cure as a victory against mesothelioma, I am encouraged by our results,” said Joseph Friedberg, MD, co-director of the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program (PMPP) and lead author of the new study. “Based on our new findings, we are redoubling our clinical and translational research efforts to find a way to further improve and refine this multimodality treatment approach for mesothelioma.”

The results of the study were published in the latest issue of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

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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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