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Methods for treating mesothelioma advancing

If you're suffering from mesothelioma, you know how difficult it can be to treat the disease, but recent medical developments may reverse that trend. Researchers are using "big data" and other innovations to devise treatments to improve survival rates for people with mesothelioma.

Using biomarkers for personalized treatment

Scientists have identified biomarkers-- characteristics within DNA-- that they can use to predict how various treatments will affect a patient's body. These indicators explain why some patients respond well to certain treatments, while others do not.

With genome sequencing and analytics, the days of trying a particular treatment to see if it works may be a thing of the past. The goal is to determine which method will be successful before treatment begins so doctors can create personalized care plans, saving precious time and protecting patients from unnecessary side effects.

Freezing cancer cells

The water content of cells allows them to be frozen without harming surrounding tissues. Scientists have discovered that they can reduce tumors in much the same way they've been able to destroy fat cells-- by exposing them to extreme cold. A recently developed procedure involves placing an instrument in contact with the tumor and releasing a gas to freeze cancer cells, effectively killing them. The results of clinical trials are encouraging. Within the first year, there was no local recurrence of the tumor in more than 90 percent of cases, with few side effects and no deaths reported.

Immunotherapy

One of the most widely-used strategies in medicine involves activating the body's immune response to ward off elements that could negatively impact health. This is harder to do with tumors. They do not trigger an immune response because the body doesn't recognize them as a threat. An immunotherapy treatment currently in the works involves injecting a substance that only binds to the tumor and stimulates the immune system. In other research, still highly experimental and not yet approved for clinical trials, scientists are developing viruses that attack mesothelioma cells without damaging healthy neighboring cells.

Photodynamic therapy

Still awaiting approval is a treatment that would allow patients to take medication that accumulates in the tumor. When activated by light, the drug would work against the cancerous growth.

Because mesothelioma is relatively rare, these treatments may not be subject to the bureaucratic hurdles typically required for FDA-approval, shortening the time it usually takes to make them available.

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