Most systemic cancer treatment lasts a set number of cycles. These cycles are usually three-week stretches of time in between sessions of treatment. In most cases, systemic treatment for mesothelioma lasts 4-6 cycles, regardless if it’s chemotherapy or immunotherapy.
A new study out of China says treatment should continue to improve the life expectancy for mesothelioma patients.
Forty patients were sampled from 2013-2018 at Cancer Hospital Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. All 40 had stable malignant pleural mesothelioma, meaning it wasn’t advancing due to treatment. A little more than half received maintenance pemetrexed and the others received a placebo.
Patients receiving the follow-up chemotherapy drug performed much better than the other set of patients.
Explaining Maintenance Therapy for Cancer
Maintenance therapy is the continuation of a systemic treatment following the end of a regimen. Most patients stop receiving intravenous chemotherapy or immunotherapy after the predetermined maximum number of cycles.
The issue is mesothelioma tumors outlast the treatment as fragmented cells, which are able to begin replicating and growing again once therapy ends. The cancer returns within a few months on scans – and the tumors are often resistant to a restart of treatment.
Continuing the treatment in lighter doses and longer cycles between dosage may prevent as quick of a re-growth of tumors.
Using Maintenance Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma
The survival averages showed a benefit for maintenance mesothelioma chemotherapy. It resulted in a progression-free survival of 8.3 months, compared to just three months without it. There was a noticeable gap in median overall survival as well:
- 26.4 months for pemetrexed with chemotherapy
- 15.7 months for placebo arm
The above figures show nearly a one-year difference in overall survival. That one year is precious extra time for patients to spend with friends and family. There also weren’t many cases of serious side effects due to maintenance chemotherapy.
Maintenance therapy can be financially costly, but more hospitals should add this option to mesothelioma treatment. Insurance companies should also cover maintenance therapy to help improve the life expectancy of patients who respond initially to systemic treatment.
Sources & Author
- [Analysis of the Efficacy of Pemetrexed Maintenance Therapy in Patients with Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma]. Chinese Journal of Lung Cancer. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35078279/. Accessed: 02/02/2022.