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mesothelioma clinical trials

Mesothelioma Clinical Trials: What They Are, How They Work, How to Participate

doctor in conference with patientBy the time physicians start using the word “mesothelioma” around you, it is often already obvious that something is wrong or different. Perhaps your health has been declining, or you’ve had unexplained symptoms. Though a diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a terrible blow, it can also create clarity. Unexplained symptoms snap into a single, comprehensible order. Treatments become available. And, through clinical trials, options can open up.

But just what are clinical trials for mesothelioma, and how can you use them to your advantage? Here is a quick primer on what are they are, how they work and how to participate in them.

MPM clinical trials: The basics

Every medical treatment used in the U.S. has to first be tested. To begin, scientists do laboratory experiments involving cells and animals, to make sure a regimen is tolerable for people. But ultimately, doctors need to know that a treatment is safe and effective for actual patients. This is where a clinical trial comes in.

These trials are conducted in four phases. A treatment has to be approved in one in order to “graduate” to the next.

Phase 0: Scientists want to establish what a drug does when introduced into in the body. Very few patients participate.

Phase I: Researchers establish whether a drug is safe. Between 15 and 50 patients participate. No placebos are used.

Phase II: If safe, a drug is now tested to see if it is efficacious – that is, if it does what doctors and patients want it to do. Doses and methods vary. Between 25 and 100 people participate. No placebos are used.

Phase III: In this final step, researchers try to determine if a drug is better than what is already available for patients. At least a few hundred people are enrolled, if not more. Placebos may be used.

Drugs that pass Phase III clinical trials are then submitted to the FDA for approval.

Why clinical trials for mesothelioma matter

As the American Cancer Society notes, most people live their lives without needing to think about clinical trials. That’s because, for milder diseases, existing treatments are usually good enough.

However, patients with grave illnesses like mesothelioma are in constant need of new and better medicines. Thus, people who join mesothelioma clinical trials are doing their part to help advance the treatment of MPM.

Clinical trials are not without risks. There is no guarantee that an experimental treatment will work better than an existing one. But for people with mesothelioma, access to clinical trials means having more therapeutic options. Often, MPM patients’ only avenue for trying cutting-edge treatments – like photodynamic therapy, gene therapy or targeted drugs – is the clinical trial.

If you’d like to learn about current trials for mesothelioma, check the website of the National Cancer Institute, which keeps a running list.

Is a mesothelioma clinical trial right for me?

This is a question no one can answer for you. At Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we stress how important it is to speak with your doctors, specialists, family members and legal counsel before deciding one way or the other.

There are certain factors you will need to weigh.

  • What are the risks and benefits of a particular trial?
  • Does your form of mesothelioma meet its criteria?
  • How advanced is your condition?
  • Have you explored all other available options?
  • What are the costs?
  • How much will your insurance cover?
  • What do you expect to get out of a clinical trial?

This last question may be the most critical. With mesothelioma, it is important to set realistic goals. Clinical trials do not offer cures, but they do present the chance to try a treatment that may extend life by months or even years.

Related posts:

Mesothelioma Treatment Options and Clinical Trials

Current Mesothelioma Treatment Research and Studies

Mesothelioma Treatment by Stage


Mesothelioma Treatment Options and Clinical Trials

doctor in laboratoryThe news that you or a loved one has malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) can be totally overwhelming. Until you’ve begun to come to terms with the diagnosis, you may have a hard time focusing your thoughts and feelings. For this reason, we at Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley recommend that you talk to family, friends, physicians and legal counsel about what your options are and what comes next.

One way to cope with a mesothelioma diagnosis is to begin exploring the available treatments. Fortunately for anyone with the disease, there are usually a number of different options to weigh and discuss.

Here’s a quick overview, including some of the newest, cutting-edge clinical trials.

Mesothelioma surgeries

Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D): Currently, all procedures for mesothelioma are considered palliative. Most people with the disease will undergo at least one operation to remove tumor tissue and relieve pressure in the chest. The P/D is a fairly conservative surgery, in that it removes only the affected lung covering and part of the chest cavity lining.

Debulking: This is an even more conservative surgery, one that just focuses on removing the main mass of mesothelioma tumors.

Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): Of the procedures used to treat mesothelioma, EPP is one of the most radical, since it removes the lining of the chest, the sac surrounding the heart, the diaphragm muscle and one lung. It is often used for more advanced cases of the disease.

Fluid removal: To ease pressure and increase comfort, doctors can perform fairly minor procedures like the thoracentesis, pleurodesis or pericardiocentesis, which use small tubes to drain excess fluid from the chest.


Pemetrexed: Many patients with MPM are given this chemotherapeutic agent, often in combination with cisplatin. Whether it’s taken orally, injected or applied directly to a tumor site depends on the disease’s stage.

ACisplatin: Another common chemo treatment.

Pazopanib: Though not yet approved for use on MPM, tests have shown that this chemo agent (which is used for kidney cancer) may double as a mesothelioma treatment.


External beam: As part of a multi-pronged approach to treatment, some patients may receive radiation therapy from an external source, like an X-ray machine.

Brachytherapy: Also known as internal radiation therapy, this treatment involves the injection or implantation of radioactive iodine as a way to kill MPM cells.

Clinical trials

Biologic therapy: This form of treatment, also called immunotherapy, uses your own immune system to fight tumor growth. It is being tested in multiple clinical trials.

MV-NIS: Short for “measles virus vector with the human thyroidal sodium iodide symporter,” this experimental treatment uses specially modified measles viruses to deliver radioactive iodine to MPM tumors in a targeted way.

Related articles:

Mesothelioma and Pain: What to Expect and How to Manage It

The Stages of Mesothelioma: What Can I Expect After My Diagnosis?

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