Chemo for Mesothelioma Offers Limited Survival Benefits

THURSDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- Adding chemotherapy to other treatments being giving to patients with mesothelioma, a lung cancer usually linked to asbestos exposure, does not appear to improve either survival or quality of life.

Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), which is usually fatal, is a cancer of the protective lining that covers the lungs. Asbestos is still produced or used in large quantities in countries such as Russia, China, Canada, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Zimbabwe, India and Thailand.

In the study, published in this week's issue of The Lancet, groups of mesothelioma patients received one of two chemotherapy regimes (four cycles of mitomycin, vinblastine and cisplatin every three weeks or one injection of vinorelbine every week for 12 weeks) in addition to active symptom control (ACS) treatments. ACS can include steroids, painkillers, bronchodilators and palliative radiotherapy to control the cancer's symptoms. Another group only received the symptom control treatments.

At the time of the analysis, roughly 96 percent of patients in all three groups had died. Only a slight but statistically insignificant improvement in survival rates after one year was found when comparing the two chemotherapy groups combined to those receiving only treatment for symptoms (32 percent vs. 29 percent).

Patients in the chemotherapy group that received vinorelbine, though, did have a slightly better survival rate (37 percent) than the other two groups but, again, researchers said this was not statistically significant.

Quality-of-life scores (physical functioning, pain, shortness of breath, overall health status) were similar in the three groups.

"The addition of chemotherapy to ASC offers no significant benefits in terms of overall survival or quality of life. However, exploratory analyses suggested that vinorelbine merits further investigation," the authors concluded.

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more about mesothelioma.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, May 15, 2008

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