New Mesothelioma Treatment Options include FDA-Approved Targeted Drugs

July 1, 2018
New Mesothelioma Treatment Options include FDA-Approved Targeted Drugs

Because mesothelioma is a rare disease, the amount of medical research and experimental treatment options is not as expansive as it would be for other diseases. Even so, new mesothelioma treatment therapies are always being worked on, according to the American Cancer Society. Of course, we know for a fact how to prevent mesothelioma: avoid exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma, and steering clear of it is the only known way to avoid getting mesothelioma. But, many people didn’t have a choice in the matter.

Right now, there are three main treatment options approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for mesothelioma:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery

If caught early on, mesothelioma responds more favorably to these treatments. Oftentimes, however, the disease has advanced so far that none of these options is particularly viable. That’s why researchers are always looking into new methods to treat mesothelioma. These treatments can be found in categories such as:

  • Targeted drugs
  • Photodynamic (or light) therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Virus therapies
  • Gene therapy

The treatment option with the most encouraging outlook is targeted drugs. These drugs are different from chemotherapy medications, and they also treat the disease differently. For the most part, the side effects of targeted drugs are far less severe than chemotherapy drugs, as well. But what are some targeted drugs?

Sutent (sunitinib malate)

While Sutent has not yet been approved for use as a mesothelioma therapy by the FDA, it has still shown some promise as a cancer cell killer in some clinical trials. The drug is largely used as a treatment for gastrointestinal stromal tumors, kidney cancer, and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. Some studies have exhibited its efficacy as a treatment for mesothelioma in combination with other standard options. So, while Sutent is not a miracle drug by any means, it could still help in conjunction with something like standard radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Alimta (Pemetrexed disodium)

Alimta is the brand name for Pemetrexed, a drug commonly used to treat non-small cell lung cancer and malignant pleural mesothelioma. It is used on patients who do not have the option to undergo surgery. It is what is known as an “anti-metabolite,” prohibiting cancer cells from producing and regenerating DNA and slowing or halting their spread. The drug is administered intravenously and usually once every three weeks.


This treatment option is a combination of two different drugs, Gemcitabine and Cisplatin. The drug duo is approved for use as a treatment against:

  • Malignant pleural mesothelioma
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Biliary cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer

Gemcitabine-Cisplatin works by targeting cells that divide and multiply rapidly. The two drugs work differently to attain the goal of killing those cells, but they often get the job done. Like Pemetrexed, this drug is administered intravenously but is given in cycles rather than in a consistent time frame. Every cycle is between 3 and 4 weeks long and the treatment could last between 3 to 6 months total depending on the amount of cycles.

Clearly, options exist for mesothelioma sufferers who are seeking any kind of cure. Talk to your doctor about any new treatments that may be on the horizon.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call or email us for a free consultation.