Oncologists are faced with the daunting task of determining the most effective treatment for each mesothelioma patient. Each patient and each tumor is different, making the job even more challenging, so having a diagnostic tool to help determine the best treatment is critical. Now, researchers report they have developed an analytical model that can estimate the “cell-killing ability” of various chemotherapy treatments.
Researchers from National Technical University of Athens, Greece realized medical professionals need a better tool for assessing whether cancer cells are effectively being eradicated by the chosen chemotherapy regimen. They found that by using a model that simulates the growth of non-small cell lung cancer tumors and applying data personalized to the specific tumor – such as stage and genetic makeup – they can estimate “the cell-killing ability of different combinations of chemotherapy drugs.”
“Standard therapeutic strategies include the administration of two drugs in combination, aiming at shrinking the tumor before surgery and improving overall survival,” noted the authors of the study. “Knowing the sensitivity profile of each patient to different treatment strategies at diagnosis may help choose the most appropriate ones.”
The researchers looked at 12 NSCLC patients who received the chemotherapy combination of cisplatin with gemcitabine, vinorelbine or docetaxel before tumor-removal surgery. The team found that for most patients, their model “successfully predicted” the actual amount of tumor shrinkage after chemotherapy treatment.
Pleural mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer that is almost always caused by asbestos exposure and is found in the outer lining of the lungs called the mesothelium. The most common treatment modality for mesothelioma and lung cancer is chemotherapy. The anti-cancer regimen is typically given in combination – with cisplatin/pemetrexed being the standard of care in the U.S.
“With further research, the new model could help reveal links between cell kill rates and specific tumor characteristics, such as genetic mutations,” according to study co-author and team leader Georgios Stamatakos. “This could ultimately help doctors select the best treatment options for other patients with similar tumor features.”
Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, with nearly the same number dying from the terminal cancer. The cancer nearly always builds a resistance to chemotherapy, however, knowing the effectiveness of a drug prior to use can increase survival and quality of life for mesothelioma patients.
Find the study in the Sept. 22 issue of PLOS Computational Biology.