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New treatments for mesothelioma are in the works

October was National Healthy Lung Month. The intention of recognition is to encourage people to consider the health of their lungs.

When people think about lung health, tobacco use is one of the first things that comes to mind. While smoking is largely responsible for many lung related diseases, you would be remiss to think it is the only risk to lung health.

As our lungs take in oxygen, they also absorb environmental pollutants such as asbestos, burning fossil fuels and off-gassing of man-made products.

In the spirit of healthy lung month, hard-working researchers have recently announced some emerging treatment options for mesothelioma patients.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is rare form of cancer that develops most commonly in the protective lining of the lungs or the chest cavity. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been, and continues to be, used in construction. When the microscopic, airborne asbestos fibers are inhaled, they get caught in tissue, create scarring over decades that may lead to mesothelioma.

New treatment options

In addition to the typical cancer treatments, the following therapies appear promising to researchers in the field.

  • Gene therapy: Abnormal cell mutation is the cause of cancer, and gene therapy aims to target the mutated cells and replace them with normal ones. Gene therapy is in clinical trials, undergoing thorough evaluation for effectiveness.
  • Immunotherapy: A person with cancer suffers from a weakened immune system. With immunotherapy, specially designed drugs work to strengthen the immune system by targeting and deactivating cancer cells.
  • Photodynamic therapy: In this treatment option, a drug that is injected into the patient's bloodstream adheres to the cancerous cells. During the next step, a technician uses a laser light over the affected areas, destroying cancer cells. After, the patient undergoes an endoscopy, where the treating physician can view the cancer cells and remove any dead tissue.

Unfortunately, mesothelioma patients are often unaware of their exposure until years later when the first symptoms of the disease appear. While there is no cure for this disease, devoted scientists have already created treatments that may help, and new drugs are in development.

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