Mesothelioma Treatment Alert: National Cancer Institute to Begin New Phase of Mesothelioma Drug Trial

Study drug targets proteins that aid in tumor growth

Syracuse, New York 9/12/2009 02:43 AM GMT (TransWorldNews)

The National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland is enrolling participants in a Phase II clinical trial to determine the efficacy of the cancer drug gefitinib in treating patients with malignant mesothelioma cancer.


In this study, researchers involved in the multi-center study will be evaluating several factors, including the activity of the drug in terms of failure-free survival, as well as the response rate, toxicity levels, and overall survival rates in patients treated with gefitinib.


Marketed under the trade name Iressa, gefitinib specifically targets the proteins in malignant cells, inhibiting cellular growth.

Currently, gefitinib is only indicated for the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and who have undergone previous chemotherapy. Researchers believe the drug may also be effective in mesothelioma treatment, as well as the treatment of other cancers involving the protein molecule known as the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR.

During the trial, researchers plan to enroll 40 patients with histologically confirmed malignant mesothelioma that is not amenable to curative surgery or radiotherapy. In addition, patients must have measurable lesions and no known brain metastases.

Patients involved in the study will receive daily doses of oral gefitinib for alternating periods until progression of the cancer is halted, or unacceptable toxicity levels are reached. Clinicians will follow study participants for up to four years.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that attacks the mesothelium, the protective membrane that surrounds the body’s internal organs. The disease is caused by exposure to asbestos, a material once commonly found in many materials used in the construction, shipbuilding, heating and ventilation, and other industries. Asbestos is present in thousands of buildings across the country, including residential, office, industrial, and government and public buildings.

Asbestos is a common silica-based mineral, once highly prized for its resistance to heat and moisture, as well as its fibrous nature, which allowed it to be formed into many products ideal for construction, industrial, and other applications. In its pristine state, asbestos is harmless. However, over time the asbestos fibers become dry and brittle, and when disturbed are easily released into the air where they can be ingested or inhaled. Once in the body, these tiny fibers become permanently lodged in the tissue of the mesothelium where they cause abnormal cellular growth.

Although the use of asbestos in manufacturing was banned in the United States in the late 1970s, millions of homes and other buildings constructed prior to the early 1980s contain the material in various forms. Simple projects, such as renovations and duct cleaning, can result in asbestos fibers being released into the air.

It can take up to 50 years for the symptoms of mesothelioma to become evident. The initial symptoms of mesothelioma may mimic those of flu or other respiratory ailments, and may include persistent cough, shortness of breath, and chest or abdominal pain or swelling. Mesothelioma diagnosis is made following a complete physical exam, thorough health history to determine potential asbestos exposure, and chest X-rays or other medical imaging procedures.

Currently, mesothelioma prognosis is grim, with no known cure. Treatments focus on amelioration of symptoms for those affected with the condition.


Mesothelioma patients and their families seeking additional information about the latest advances in mesothelioma treatment and care can contact Dr. Raphael Bueno of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. As associate chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery, Dr. Bueno is uniquely positioned to offer guidance regarding the most current treatment modalities available for patients who suffer from mesothelioma.


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