Surgery that preserves the lung, when combined with other therapies, appears to extend the lives of people with a subtype of the rare and deadly cancer mesothelioma, a new study suggests.
Tracking 73 patients with advanced malignant pleural mesothelioma—which affects the lungs’ protective lining in the chest cavity—researchers found that those treated with lung-sparing surgery had an average survival of nearly three years. A subset of those patients survived longer than seven years.
Mesothelioma patients treated with chemotherapy alone, which is standard care, live an average of 12 to 18 months, the researchers said.
Study participants received lung-sparing surgeries and another treatment called photodynamic therapy that uses light to kill cancer cells. Ninety-two percent of the group also received chemotherapy.
The study volunteers achieved far longer survival times, said study author Dr. Joseph Friedberg.
“When you take the [entire] lung out, it’s a significant compromise in quality of life,” said Friedberg. He’s director of the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Mesothelioma and Thoracic Oncology Treatment and Research Center in Baltimore.
“For all intents and purposes, this [lung-sparing surgical approach] is the largest palliative operation known to man, since chances of curing mesothelioma are vanishingly small,” said Friedberg. He completed the research while at his previous post at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Plus, most of these patients are elderly, so preserving quality of life was really the goal,” he added.
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