Our Boston mesothelioma attorneys are reticent to raise the hopes of individuals suffering from this devastatingly swift diseaseas it has been notoriously unresponsive to treatment.
On the other hand, when there is potentially encouraging news for Boston mesothelioma patients, we want them to be aware of it. And it's in that spirit that we wanted to share with you the latest news out of Australia: The possibility of increased survival rates through a certain kind of radiation treatment.
Here's what we've been able to cull from the various news reports regarding this latest treatment:
Doctors and researchers in Melbourne conducted a small study, involving some 45 patients between the ages of 45 and 74.
Those patients were given a high dose of radiation treatment, called hemithoracic radiation. This involves "intensity modulated radiotherapy," (IMRT) and something known as 3D conformal radiation. These are highly technical procedures, but the first works by allowing doctors to deliver a high radiation dose to a certain target - say, a tumor in the lungs - without damaging the tissue around it. The 3D conformal radiation is similar, but it works by allowing the radiation to match the shape of the tumor and target the cancerous cells. That means that higher doses of radiation can be delivered specifically to the tumor, reducing the risk of harm to the good tissue.
The results weren't groundbreaking, but they were encouraging.
Of those 45 patients, about 80 percent were already in the advanced stages of mesothelioma. Two had previously had either surgery or chemotherapy.
The study found that the median survival rate was 12.4 months from the time treatment began. That may not sound like much at all, but that's compared to patients who survived 7.9 months using other, more conventional forms of treatment.
This is significant because it was previously believed that mesothelioma, unlike other forms of cancer, was totally unresponsive to radiation treatments unless the levels were so high as to be fatally toxic.
Researchers here though have said there were no fatal or life-threatening side effects from the treatment itself.
Mesothelioma has historically been extremely difficult to diagnose and to treat. Usually, by the time someone is given a diagnosis, they have less than a year to live. In almost all cases, mesothelioma is caused by swallowing or inhaling dust from asbestos. That dust becomes embedded in the lining of the lungs, stomach and other vital organs, though problems aren't usually detected until many years or decades after the initial exposure.
The research should not end here - this should only be considered the beginning. This is a relatively small study, compared to the estimated 3,000 Americans who are diagnosed with the disease every year. But it's one step in the right direction.
Of course, it doesn't release those responsible for asbestos exposure from liability, so it's important if you are diagnosed to contact an experienced Boston mesothelioma attorney.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma in New England, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.