Individuals suffering from Mesothelioma know all too well the aggressive nature of the disease. Fortunately, a new clinical trial shows positive results for some patients taking a particular type of chemotherapy combination.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that afflicts the meothelium or thin membrane that covers a person's lungs, heart and other vital organs. The cancer is most commonly caused by the inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers.
Asbestos fibers were first used by U.S. manufacturers and builders in the late 19th century as an insulator for electrical components and insulation in buildings because of their sound absorption qualities, strength, and resistance to fire and heat. In the midst of World War II, other industries, including steel mills, power and paper plants, shipbuilders and mariners began using asbestos. However, at the turn of the century, the public began to learn just how dangerous the product really was.
In the early 1900s, a significant percentage of people located in various mining towns across the country known to use asbestos were succumbing to lung problems and even died. Authorities tied the illnesses to asbestos and in the late 1970s, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission-the federal agency in charge of protecting the public from injury or death resulting from consumer products-banned the manufacture and use of asbestos in certain consumer products. In 1989, all new uses of asbestos in all products were officially halted in the U.S.
Mesothelioma is one of the most serious and aggressive forms of cancer and has proved resistant to most kinds of treatment; possibly because symptoms of the disease do not appear until years after a person's exposure to asbestos which provides plenty of time for the cancer to grow and metastasize to other parts of the human body.
Today, chemotherapy is the traditional form used to fight the disease, but even this type of treatment is shown to result in only moderate impacts for patients. However, a group of research scientists in the Netherlands may have found the right chemo combination.
Between 1995 and 2006, three Dutch scientists analyzed roughly 4700 mesothelioma patients diagnosed with the condition and found that median survival rates for patients receiving the cisplatin-antifolate chemotherapy combination jumped from approximately 10 months to over 13 months.
Cisplatin, marketed as Platinol, is known to trigger apoptosis or death of the cancer cells. Cisplatin is then combined with antifolate (Alimta), a drug that blocks the activity of folic acid inside cells that interrupt cellular metabolism.
The study's authors, however, noted that outside factors could also play a part in the increase in survival time. "Due to the observational nature of this study alternative explanations cannot be excluded," one author noted. Further, the survival rates for peritoneal mesothelioma patients still remained poor.
Asbestos Exposure Today
Today, despite the prohibition on the manufacture and use of new products containing asbestos within the United States, many people are still at risk of being exposed to the dangerous product.
Since asbestos was utilized up until the late 1970s, many building or electrical materials in homes and commercial properties built before then still contain asbestos. Many workers or construction technicians remodeling, repairing, demolishing or renovating these properties today often disturb the asbestos within the materials. When disturbed, the fibers become airborne and ultimately inhaled by those within the vicinity of the construction project.
Luckily, countries, including the U.S., have promulgated rules to help minimize individuals' exposure to asbestos today. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration-the federal agency known as OSHA responsible for enforcing health and safety regulations-has implemented protocols that must be followed by anyone dealing with the repair, renovation, demolition, or maintenance of any structure that contains asbestos. In addition, the agency has employed asbestos spill and clean-up procedures as well as rules regarding the transportation, storage, and disposal of products containing asbestos.
The Fight Continues
It remains to be seen just how extensive and how long the damage associated with asbestos will have on individuals who have been or who potentially will be exposed to this hazardous product. It's estimated that over 2,000 individuals are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. However, one thing is certain-the fight to mitigate the effects of this horrible disease, as demonstrated by continuous efforts from both the U.S. and countries abroad, will continue.
An Attorney Can Help
If you or a loved one has developed the symptoms of mesothelioma or asbestosis, contact an attorney experienced in asbestos litigation immediately. An experienced attorney can advise you of your rights and hold the responsible parties accountable.