Sydney, Australia – (WiredPRNews.com) Cancer researchers in Sydney, Australia recently reported a discovery that could improve disease treatment, and thus outcomes, in people suffering from mesothelioma, a form of cancer triggered by asbestos fibers.
According to MesotheliomaWeb.org, mesothelioma (formally known as malignant mesothelioma) is a form of cancer that occurs most commonly around and in the lungs – as pleural mesothelioma – or in the abdominal cavity, as peritoneal mesothelioma.
Mesothelial tissues are those which surround and protect the body’s vital organs. These include the lungs, the abdominal organs, and the heart (the pericardium, where pericardial mesothelioma, the rarest form of the cancer occurs, in fewer than two percent of cases).
Mesothelioma is an insidious cancer. Individuals may inhale or ingest asbestos fibers in the course of their work, or at home or school, and the cancer lies dormant – sometimes for up to 50 years – producing almost no definitive symptoms. This is unfortunate, because the earlier mesothelioma is accurately diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Those diagnosed at Stage II or later, when the cancer has spread and involved organs and tissues beyond the site of origin, are commonly given a prognosis of about one year to live.
Diagnosis is usually best achieved with an MRI, though a CT scan or even an X-ray will show pleural effusions, a classic manifestation of mesothelioma, and occasionally even tissue masses indicating a tumor or scarring from asbestosis.
In Australia, reporting for research performed at the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, or ADRI, Director Nico Van Zandwuk notes that ADRI investigators have discovered a “tumour marker” which could provide oncologists, or cancer doctors, with the option to deliver more precisely tailored treatment options to mesothelioma victims.
Based on statistics showing that, each year, more than 700 people around the world will be diagnosed with mesothelioma and (possibly) told they have just months to live, the Van Zandwuck research group offers hope for sufferers via a wider range of treatment options made available through research over the past decade.
According to Van Zandwuck, the finding of a bloodborne marking factor (the ratio of lymphocytes to neutrophils) can help doctors determine how aggressive an individual patient’s form of mesothelioma will be, and how it will respond to various treatment options, which can now be adjusted based on the marking factor to provide optimum cancer-cell eradication and physical improvement with fewest possible side effects – and always with the caveat, as Van Zandwuck notes, that the patient is physically able to tolerate such treatment.
In addition, therapeutic advances in chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy (radiation) now allow oncologists to expand available treatments into more novel areas. For example, radiation therapy – once regarded as largely palliative in that it improved breathing and reduced pain – can now be used to re-treat an area that formerly saw the use of traditional surgery to remove cancerous tissue.
The ADRI, the world’s first independent mesothelioma research facility (that is, separate from a hospital), officially debuted in January of 2009, in a ceremony presided over by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Barry Robson, formerly an Australian dock worker who handled more than his share of asbestos – and currently president of the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia, or ADFA – recently congratulated the ADRI on its swift (18-month) identification of the marker, and noted the agency’s importance in ongoing mesothelioma treatment, where the period from diagnosis to death is typically 155 days.
Calling the identification of the tumour marker a “major, major step forward”, Robson and interviewer Lindy Kerin also noted that the findings were aptly timed for release during National Asbestos Week, which in the U.S. will fall during the first week of April.