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First treatment in 16 years approved for mesothelioma

Individuals who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are often told quickly that their treatment options are limited. Recently, a new combination of drugs was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. This is the first approval in 16 years for treatments for malignant pleural mesothelioma.

There are approximately 20,000 individuals diagnosed with this type of mesothelioma each year in this country. Sadly, it is a terminal condition. Approximately 10% of people who are diagnosed in the advanced stages survive five years.

What is malignant pleural mesothelioma?

Malignant pleural mesothelioma impacts the lungs. It causes shortness of breath, chest pain, unusual lumps on the chest, painful coughing and unexplained weight loss. The primary risk factor for this type of cancer is exposure to asbestos, which can occur in a variety of locations such as construction and shipbuilding. It can take decades for mesothelioma to occur after the asbestos exposure.

What is the new treatment option?

The new treatment plan is a combination of the drugs nivolumab, which is commonly referred to as the name brand Opdivo, and ipilimumab, which is the generic version of Yervoy. The drug combination has also been approved for use in patients who have thoracic cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

Dr. Richard Pazdur, Director of the FDA's Oncology Center of Excellence, notes that the treatment combination has shown to improve the survival for patients with this type of mesothelioma. There is currently only one other option, pemetrexed with cisplatin, for patients who have malignant pleural mesothelioma.

People who are diagnosed with mesothelioma often face a very tough life. Not only do they have to deal with the physical horrors of the condition, they also have to try to cope with the financial impacts. Those who were exposed to asbestos might want to take legal action to try to receive compensation. This can help them to cover the costs of medical care and other living expenses while they're battling for their life. It may also provide them with the financial backing they need to be able to focus on spending time with loved ones during this trying time.

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