Imagine it’s seven years from now. Or maybe it’s 10 or 20 years into the future. A person is told difficult-to-hear news from their doctor: They have mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer.
However, instead of receiving a grim prognosis, they are given a wealth of hope.
There is a new treatment that will ensure many more days, months and even years spent on this earth for the patient. This treatment works. It’s the medical care mesothelioma patients have been waiting for. It’s life-saving, and it will save this patient’s life.
They will get to laugh with their friends and hug their family.
Now imagine this: You were part of why that’s the case, because you participated in a clinical trial.
The Tragedy of Mesothelioma
We call mesothelioma a “tragedy” because it is one. Every year, somewhere between 2,500 and 3,300 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma. Every year, close to the same number of patients die from this rare cancer. They are at no fault for their cancer. Other people — money-hungry corporate leaders, to be specific — caused this disease.
And we don’t have to imagine this; it’s reality. Mesothelioma isn’t going anywhere, either. In the coming years, more people will develop the cancer. Asbestos is still everywhere, and it’s still being used.
For Mesothelioma Awareness Day 2019, which is today, we at Mesothelioma Guide want to continue bringing this heartbreaking disease to light. It’s not really a happy day, not one to celebrate. If it were up to us, then there wouldn’t be a Mesothelioma Awareness Day. Because if it were up to us, there wouldn’t be mesothelioma.
But again, we live in reality.
We want to continue stressing the dangers of asbestos. We want to continue showing compassion to those struggling with this disease.
But we also want to lower that death number. And the only way to do that? Find a cure, or at least a treatment that halts mesothelioma’s damage to the body.
Which requires experimentation.
Which involves a clinical trial.
Which needs people, specifically people who have mesothelioma.
And that’s where you come in.
Why Clinical Trials Are Important
Clinical trials can save lives. They are the best option in the medical field to save the lives of mesothelioma patients, both present and future.
Right now, mesothelioma patients are largely restricted to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for treatment. The average life expectancy for pleural mesothelioma is between 11 and 20 months after their diagnosis date. For peritoneal mesothelioma, the prognosis is anywhere from a year to five years.
Dr. Daniel Sterman is the director of the Multidisciplinary Pulmonary Oncology Program at New York University Langone Health. He recently spoke to Mesothelioma Guide about the limited treatment options for patients and the necessity for new methods of treating this disease.
“I learn so much about the people who have the disease,” he said. “These are salt-of-the-earth people, people who never asked anything for themselves, only cared about their families, working hard and making a living. They didn’t ask to be exposed to asbestos.
“At a time when most wanted to retire and enjoy life, they were hit with a lightning bolt that was this horrendous diagnosis.”
We need people to take chances, not just for themselves but also for future patients. These trials may not work. Many of them don’t make it beyond Phase 1 or Phase 2. But participating in them proves that this treatment doesn’t work. Then the experts can move on and create a new treatment for a new study.
Eventually, one will work.
“If we do find a cure for mesothelioma, it’ll be because of all the people who came before (the people cured by the treatment),” Dr. Sterman said. “It’ll be because of those people who tried those experimental therapies, who went through the hardships of the clinical trial, who took that uncertainty and risk to help people in the future.”
How to Join a Clinical Trial
If you’re a mesothelioma patient, you should consider participating in a clinical trial. Dr. Sterman is leading a Phase 3 study and needs people.
“I have to mention all those patients and families who were altruistic and contributed in every possible way to the conduct of the studies we did,” Sterman said. “Where we are today is not just a testament to the scientists who helped develop the treatment, but also to those patients and families who sacrificed so much to participate in these trials.”
If that specific trial doesn’t fit your circumstances, there are many more studies involving mesothelioma that could. There’s an immunotherapy trial targeting mesothelioma protein. There’s also a study connecting immunotherapy with a virotherapy. In short, there are plenty of options.
“People want to help themselves live longer and have hopes for a cure,” Dr. Sterman said. “What we tell patients when they enroll in clinical trials, especially early phase clinical trials, is even if they’re not helping themselves, they are helping other people in the future.”
We at Mesothelioma Guide can help you find the right one. A significant part of what we do is connect patients to clinical trials. We know doing so can help those patients live long and fulfilling lives, but we also want to be part of the solution to mesothelioma.
Our patient advocate and registered nurse, Jenna Campagna, continuously helps patients enroll in studies that fit their disease, location and more. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Imagine again: You could participate in the clinical trial. You could help find the life-saving treatment. In 10, 20, even 50 years from now, you could be a big reason why lives are saved.
Maybe then, when we recognize Mesothelioma Awareness Day, it will be a little more celebratory.