Researchers say a potential new treatment for mesothelioma, a form of cancer, may be more effective than current chemotherapy regimens. A chemotherapy agent called cisplatin is the standard treatment for mesothelioma, but there is a tendency for the drug to lose its effectiveness over time as the the tumors develop resistance to it. Scientists discovered the mechanism the tumor cells use to resist the drug, and may have discovered a way to block the process.
Mesothelioma is one of the best-understood forms of cancer. Nearly all of the 3,000 cases diagnosed in the United States each year are the result of breathing in asbestos fibers. The cancer strikes the mesothelium, the layer of cells that forms the lining of several organs. Mesothelioma most commonly strikes the lungs, but it can also be found in the abdomen, genitalia, or heart.
Unfortunately, symptoms don’t always appear until years, sometimes decades, after exposure. In the most common form of the disease, in the lungs, these symptoms will include shortness of breath, coughing, and pain in the chest under the rib cage. The abdominal form causes pain and swelling. Lumps are often a sign of cancer, including mesothelioma.
Asbestos is very closely associated with mesothelioma, being one of the most consistent factors in the development of the condition. Asbestos is a highly heat-resistant fibrous mineral that was used for fireproofing until the health risks became clear. It continues to be used for some applications, and is still found in older insulation, flooring, shingles, and other products. Normally it requires significant exposure to asbestos to cause mesothelioma, and the disease is most prevalent in miners and other people who encountered it occupationally, but there are cases of people getting sick after very brief exposure. However, there is no risk if the asbestos is covered up and not disturbed.