Chemotherapy Cuts Mesothelioma Survival Time for Some Patients

In Australia, researchers say that chemotherapy at the end of a mesothelioma patient’s life may do more harm than good.

A team from the Asbestos Disease Research Institute in Rhodes, Australia studied the 147 pleural mesothelioma patients who had received compensation from the government’s Dust Diseases Board to determine the link between a variety of factors (age, gender, geographic location, disease stage, histological subtype, length of first-line chemotherapy, and use of chemo in the last month of their lives).

Most of the patients studied (77%) received more than one treatment modality, while 56% of the patients studied received only one. The most popular first-line mesothelioma treatment, chemotherapy, was used to treat 78 patients. 50 of the patients studied had radiation, and 116 had mesothelioma surgery. 21 patients received mesothelioma treatment in their last month of life, with 9 of those patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. The researchers concluded that patients who had already undergone two rounds of chemotherapy treatment were more likely to undergo chemo in the last month of their lives, especially if the patient failed to show a response to earlier chemo treatment.

While chemotherapy has been moderately successful at improving survival rates when administered at early stages of mesothelioma, the Australian researchers suggest that it could have the opposite effect in patients whose disease is at a later stage. “Patients who received chemotherapy at the end of life had shorter survival compared to those who did not receive chemotherapy at the end of life.”

Researchers found that patients who underwent chemotherapy in their last weeks survived for an average of 5.3 months, compared to patients who did not have late-stage chemotherapy whose life expectancy was 12.5 months on average. Researchers feel that these patients who underwent chemo treatment at the end of their lives may have died sooner because of the additional stress caused by the treatment. Based on these findings, the researchers recommend that clinicians give “more careful consideration of when to cease chemotherapy” in mesothelioma treatment.

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