Low Dose Chemotherapy May Provide New Hope In Mesothelioma Treatment

Cancer patients are often treated with large doses of chemotherapy drugs for short amounts of time. The drugs are so toxic that patients must go through periodic lapses in treatment to allow their body time to regain strength. According to many doctors, this waiting period gives the body time to regenerate the blood vessels tumors need to live creating a cycle of treatment that is ineffective.

Doctors have begun new research into a treatment that involves continuous chemotherapy doses given in smaller quantities. This new approach treats the disease like a chronic condition similar to heart disease with consistent, daily treatment. The side effects from this low dose chemotherapy are minimal and can therefore be tolerated for the long term.

The new method, sometimes referred to as “chemo-lite” or “metronomic chemotherapy”, is being studied at various research centers around the country with promising results. This new treatment takes the chemotherapy focus away from the actual tumor and places that focus on the blood vessels that feed the tumor.

"So much of our current cancer treatment depends on understanding the intricacies of a specific tumor," says Mark W. Kieran, a pediatric oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who has led low-dose chemo trials. With this new approach, Dr. Kieran said, "we're attacking the tumor's supply line."

Researchers believe this new therapy can also aid in the study of angiogenesis, or blood vessel development. The low-dose chemotherapy helps to keep the growth of certain blood vessels which supply tumor with needed nutrients in check. When this process is stopped mesothelioma tumor growth is impossible.

Many human trials of low-dose chemotherapy have given favorable outcomes but not all results have been positive. Ian Tannock, an oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital and the University of Toronto who had minimal success in a kidney cancer study found low-dose chemotherapy results to be "not remarkable.". "I think it's a reasonable idea to test," he says, "but I don't see this as the wave of the future."

Dr. Harold Burnstein has launched a study open to breast cancer patients who have residual cancer in lymphnodes or other tissue and have a high risk for reoccurrence. He believes that patients whose cancer is in the early stages will benefit most from this new cancer treatment.

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