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Hyperthermia may be a Treatment Option for Mesothelioma Patients

doctor reading x-rayAfter you have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, it is important to have a thorough conversation with your healthcare team about all of the possible treatment options. Such a discussion will highlight the different treatment options and experimental therapies available for cancer patients today.

At Kazan Law, we like to keep track of all of the various possibilities for patients, including multimodal therapies that administer more than one treatment, and newer options that scientists are still studying. In Japan, one team of researchers is exploring the effects of hyperthermia.

Treatment heats cancer cells to death
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) describes hyperthermia as a form of cancer therapy that applies temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit (F) to parts of the body that are affected by a malignancy. Doctors who use hyperthermia often combine it with radiation or chemotherapy.

The idea is that the high temperatures either kill the diseased cells directly or make them more sensitive to other forms of treatment.

Hyperthermia can be administered to a small and local area or applied to a larger region. For the former, applicators or probes may be used on the skin, inside a cavity or directly on the tumor. When it comes to regional hyperthermia, external applicators may be placed over large surface areas of the body, heated chemotherapy drugs can be administered, or a patient’s blood is removed in order to be heated by a device before being circulated throughout the body again.

The NCI notes that the effectiveness of hyperthermia depends on a combination of the temperature, the characteristics of the cancer cells and the length of therapy.

Doctors discuss hyperthermia for mesothelioma
So far, scientists have explored the use of hyperthermia for the treatment of malignancies of skin, brain, lung, breast, liver, bladder, rectum and peritoneum. In Japan, one team of doctors published a case report in which they discussed treating a mesothelioma patient with hyperthermia.

They diagnosed the 61-year-old man with stage III malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). The American Cancer Society describes this stage as involving the pleural lining of one side of the chest, one of several tissue layers around the chest or heart, possible disease in the lymph nodes and a lack of spreading to distant areas of the body.

The man in the case report did not wish to undergo invasive treatments, such as surgery or radiation. In light of his preferences, the doctors decided to treat him with a combination of chemotherapy – using cisplatin and irinotecan – and hyperthermia. After the physicians administered the irinotecan, they applied 30-centimeter wide electrodes to the front and back of the patient’s thorax. Radiofrequency waves heated the target tissues to 42.5 degrees Celsius, or approximately 108.5 degrees F. Each hyperthermia session lasted 60 minutes.

After one course of chemotherapy and three hyperthermia treatments, CT scans of the chest revealed that the thickening of the pleura had been significantly reduced. Afterward, the patient remained disease-free for more than seven years.

“The combination of hyperthermia and chemotherapy may be a novel and safe therapeutic option for MPM and can be considered in cases ineligible for radical treatment,” the scientists wrote in the Journal of Medical Case Reports. “Further clinical studies of the hyperthermia-chemotherapy combination are required to confirm its effects on MPM.”

What does the future hold?
So far, hyperthermia is not a standard treatment for any cancer. However, there are several clinical trials going on, as noted by the NCI.

If these trials continue to show promise, hyperthermia may prove invaluable to individuals affected by cancer related to asbestos exposure.

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