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Symposium To Focus on Lung-Sparing Therapies for Malignant Mesothelioma Patients

University of Arizona's Cancer Center

Medical doctors and researchers will gather on May 12 in Santa Monica, California for the 2nd Annual International Symposium on Lung-Sparing Therapies for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the lining of the lung and abdominal cavity caused by asbestos exposure.

Approximately, 2,500 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in the United States each year. The incidence of mesothelioma has increased in recent decades.

The symposium promotes less invasive alternatives to the radical surgery that involves extensive removal of tissue and organs in mesothelioma patients and prolonged recoveries. Dr. Robert Cameron, director of the UCLA Mesothelioma Comprehensive Research Program and an advocate of lung sparing therapies, will lead the symposium.

The radical surgery attempted on some mesothelioma patients is known as extrapleural pneumonectomy. Also known as EPP, extrapleural pneumonectomy is a procedure that involves removal of a lung, the lining of the lung, the diaphragm and the lining around the heart.

Participants at the first symposium last year reviewed the Mesothelioma and Radical Surgery (MARS) trail conducted in Great Britain from 2006 to 2009. The U.K. Mesothelioma and Radical Surgery trial tracked 50 patients—24 who underwent extrapleural pneumonectomy and 26 mesothelioma patients who did not undergo radical surgery. According to the results, 52 percent of the mesothelioma patients who underwent radical surgery lived 12 months, compared to 73 percent of the patients who had treatment that did not involve removal of a lung.

Participants concluded that the study offered no evidence that extrapleural pneumonectomy offered an advantage to patients over less invasive surgery. They said mesothelioma patients should no longer be subjected to debilitating lung-removing surgery.

The symposium is part of an ongoing debate within the medical community about mesothelioma treatment options and the value of radical surgery for mesothelioma patients. Some physicians advocate highly invasive surgeries for mesothelioma patients with less advanced cancer who are healthy enough to withstand the operation. Other doctors say that lung sparing pleurectomy/decortication procedures are effective and less debilitating.

The distinguished faculty will include experts from Houston, San Francisco, New York and as far away as South Africa.

“This symposium brings the best scientific and medical minds together to advance the treatment of mesothelioma,” Dr. Cameron said in a prepared statement. “Research and practice over the past several years have continued to evolve, working to improve cancer outcomes without unnecessarily sacrificing the affected lung. Clearly, it is best for the patient to treat mesothelioma as a chronic illness while preserving the function of both lungs.”

Many workers and veterans who develop mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos dust on the job, though disease symptoms typically take 20 years to 40 years to be diagnosed.

For more information about mesothelioma, click here.

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