Promising new research indicates that mesothelioma may one day be treated with advances in something called photodynamic therapy.

Our mesothelioma lawyers read with interest the announcement made by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

To understand why this medical research news has caused a stir, you need to know that mesothelioma is a devastating disease. It takes many years to develop, but when it is ultimately diagnosed, it’s always fatal. Patients rarely live more than a year or so beyond diagnosis.

That’s what makes further mesothelioma research so critical – and what makes the results of this study particularly exciting.

Here’s what we know, as indicated in a university press release:

The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania reported “unusually long” survival rates for mesothelioma sufferers who underwent photodynamic therapy (also sometimes called PDT). Now, “long” is a relative term when we’re talking about mesothelioma. The researchers reported that the individuals who were treated by PDT were living as many as two years longer than those who weren’t.

Dr. Joseph Friedberg, co-director of the university’s Mesothelioma and Pleural Program and the lead researcher of this study, said he does not consider this a cure. Further, he doesn’t consider anything short of a cure to be a victory against this devastating asbestos-related disease. However, the findings of this study have prompted the university to dedicate even more funding to further research of mesothelioma treatments.

We’re talking about one of the deadliest – and most aggressive – forms of cancer that currently exists. It is almost exclusively caused by some form of asbestos exposure, which in the vast majority of cases happened decades earlier. However, once a person is actually diagnosed, they have sadly lost any hope of long-term survival. In fact, some 40 percent of patients don’t live beyond one year.

The most common form of treatment is a major, invasive surgery to remove all or part of a mesothelioma victim’s lung, followed by intense, whole-chest radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Even then, the person isn’t likely to live more than a couple years.

Previous research by the university indicated that lung-sparing surgery, combined with this PDT, yielded better results than other currently available treatments.

What these researchers did was treat 38 mesothelioma victims with surgery that kept the lung in tact, combined with PDT, a light-based treatment. Of those 38 patients, all but one were deemed to be in the advanced stages (that is, 3 or 4) of the cancer’s development. Prior to the study, it was estimated that the patients would live an average of 31.7 months. However, at a follow-up a few months later, doctors increased that survival rate approximation to 34.4 months. What it actually ended up being was 41.2 months.

This is extremely encouraging.

The doctors said that while of course they are ultimately seeking a cure, the main goal at this point is to extend the patients’ lives as much as possible, and to further to improve the patient’s quality of life during their remaining months and years. By enacting a treatment that allows the patient to keep both lungs, not only is his or her quality of life improved, but it also means the patient is going to be more likely to be physically able to withstand treatments over a longer period of time.

While this is all great news, it’s important for mesothelioma sufferers to also seek legal counsel, mainly on behalf of their families. Because this disease is so devastatingly fast in its progression, it’s possible that patients may not live long enough to see the outcome of the case. However, they may take some comfort and solace in knowing that not only is it possible to make the company or companies responsible for their illness pay, but their loved ones may be taken care of in their absence.

Frequently Asked Questions: Mesothelioma & Asbestos

  • What is asbestos?
  • Why is asbestos dangerous?
  • What are asbestos-related diseases?
  • What causes mesothelioma?
  • What are the different types of mesothelioma?
  • What are common mesothelioma symptoms?
  • Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?
  • What is the life expectancy for someone with mesothelioma?
  • Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?

The Ferraro Law Firm provides comprehensive legal services regarding asbestos exposure and mesothelioma diagnosis. Call (888) 554-2030 for a free and confidential consultation. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Additional Resources:
Penn: Photodynamic Therapy Added to Lung-Sparing Surgery Improves Survival for Mesothelioma Patients, By Jessica Mikulski, University of Pennsylvania Press Release

More Blog Entries:
Mesothelioma Attorneys Know Companies Seek to Avoid Accountability, May 24, 2012, Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog