Amid the political discourse, bizarre weather, royal gossip and Hollywood controversies of 2013, another theme showed itself this year: hope. The progress made in mesothelioma treatment and research showed patients worldwide that recovery is closer than ever. Here are some of the highlights from mesothelioma treatment headlines in 2013:

1. Australian Research Turns Cancer Against Itself

Researchers in Australia found a potential mesothelioma cure by using human cells to turn the cancer against itself. Prior research had shown that blocking growth factors and membrane proteins can slow cancer down, and this study attempted to do both simultaneously. Decreasing the growth factors in a patient can drastically prolong their prognosis.

2. Mesothelioma Drug Prevents New Mesothelioma Tumors

Drug company Verastem Inc. headed a Phase 2 clinical trial to treat mesothelioma, with promising results targeting maintenance treatment in malignant pleural mesothelioma patients. Defactinib, a focal adhesion kinase (FAK) signaling pathway inhibitor, disrupts communication between cells to prevent mesothelioma cells from migrating and forming new tumors. Blocking the signaling pathway can prevent metastasis of the cancer stem cells and help keep the cancer under control.

3. Chemotherapy Drug Panobinostat to Kill Mesothelioma Tumor Cells

Experimental drug panobinostat proved promising during clinical trials this year. When used in conjunction with the standard cisplatin, the drugs killed mesothelioma tumor cells without hurting the healthy cells; the drugs also avoided any negative side effects. Although panobinostat is still in its early stages, researchers are excited to see what it could mean for mesothelioma patients in the times to come.

4. Clinical Trial Tests Ways to Control Mesothelioma Stem Cells

An international clinical trial launched this year that involves the targeted killing of mesothelioma cancer stem cells. As stem cells are considered the major cause of tumor resistance to chemotherapy, researchers are excited about the potential for this stem cell-specific trial to provide new opportunities for recovery.

5. Immunotherapy Drug Brings Hope for Mesothelioma Treatment

A breakthrough immunotherapy drug that could allow the body’s immune system to attack lung cancer tumors made headlines this summer. Although the drug was crafted specifically for lung cancers, experts are hopeful the research will mean better treatment options for pleural mesothelioma patients as well. The drug compounds, anti-PD-1 and anti-PD-L1, are protein agents that interfere with a tumor’s abilities to bypass the body’s immune system. Successful response rate of tumor shrinkage from the drug has shown between 18-28% and continued recovery in patients for at least a year after use.

6. Fowlpox Vaccine Makes Waves in Mesothelioma Testing

Scientists altered the fowlpox vaccine for testing in mesothelioma treatment this year with significant results in its early stages. The vaccine included the protein survivin, which makes cancer cells resistant to chemotherapy. Research with mice injected with malignant mesothelioma cells showed delayed tumor growth and improved survival rates without any serious side effects. Research continues to bring the vaccine safely to humans.

7. Blood Test to Provide Earlier Detection of Mesothelioma Cancer Cells

For patients fighting all kinds of cancers—including mesothelioma—the earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the prognosis. Researchers are getting closer to a new way to detect cancer cells earlier than ever through a simple blood test. The test would uncover protein-derived biomarkers that tumor cells have released into the circulatory system. With a little more work in the coming year, this test could make early diagnosis more accessible to high-risk patients.

Looking Forward

Medical breakthroughs and research innovations continue to mark new promises for mesothelioma recovery. Here’s to a 2014 full of better understanding of mesothelioma and longer strides to effectively beating the disease together.

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