First Mesothelioma Treatment Approved In 15 Years

For the first time in over 15 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new treatment for mesothelioma, which is an aggressive form of lung cancer.

Made by Novocure, the treatment is done by a device called the NovoTTF-100L System, which works by using electric fields to stop the solid tumors caused by the lung cancer from dividing and spreading.

Created as a new treatment type and as a way to encourage innovation in rare diseases, the new device was approved under the Humanitarian Device Exemption.

"Typically, mesothelioma patients who cannot have surgery receive palliative care to mitigate their symptoms," said Mary Hesdorffer, a nurse practitioner and executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. According to her, the new treatment is a great option, one that can give patients a better chance at survival.

Back in 2011, the FDA approved Optune, a treatment for a type of brain cancer that was also made by Novocure.

Aggressive cancer type

As a rare yet aggressive form of cancer, mesothelioma usually arises when cells start lining the lungs and abdominal cavities. This is often caused by exposure from asbestos and is often diagnosed via a biopsy.

Its most common symptom is shortness of breath, as well as coughing and any chest pain. As the disease develops, the shortness of breath usually increases, and other symptoms will start to come out, such as loss of appetite and night sweats. Loss of diaphragm function can also happen, as well as a sudden change of voice due to the tumor.

Aggressive as it may be though, the cancer usually takes 30 or 40 years to develop after getting exposed to asbestos for as little as one or two months. In some cases, it may even take 70 years to develop.

Unfortunately, it’s quite common for health care professionals to find mesothelioma at a stage where it’s already hard to cure, or a cure itself is hard to find. Due to this, most mesothelioma patients succumb to the disease within one year of diagnosis.

Thankfully, aside from the Novocure device, there are already three treatment systems designed for mesothelioma patients, namely the Butchart system, the TNM system and the Brigham system.

Cancer treatment A federal judge condemned UnitedHealthcare for denying cancer treatments to insured patients, marking the act as 'immoral and barbaric'. Darko Stojanovic/Pixabay