Combination Therapy Shows Promise for Rare, Deadly Cancer Caused by Asbestos, Penn Study Shows

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Media Contact:Jessica Mikulski | jessica.mikulski@uphs.upenn.edu | 215-349-8369June 2, 2011

Pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo lung-sparing surgery in combination with photodynamic therapy (PDT) show superior overall survival than patient treated using the conventional therapy of extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) (or en bloc removal of the lung and surrounding tissue) with PDT, indicates new research from the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The research is published in the June 2011 issue of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

"Unlike patients who receive traditional lung sacrificing surgery for mesothelioma, the patients in our study who underwent lung sparing surgery and photodynamic therapy, a light-based cancer treatment, have experienced unusually long overall survival rates. The median survival for those patients had not been reached at over two years when the results were analyzed. That's unusual in this field, especially when the majority of those patients are older and have advanced cancer," said Joseph Friedberg, MD, co-director of the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program and the thoracic surgeon who performed the operations cited in the study. "In addition to the overall survival statistics, the difference between having and not having a lung, both with respect to the risk of surgery and the ability to enjoy a normal life after surgery, is crucial for these patients."

Mesothelioma is one of the most aggressive and deadliest forms of cancer and is usually caused by exposure to asbestos. Exposure to asbestos typically precedes development of the cancer by anywhere from 10 - 50 years, but once it occurs, the average survival rate following diagnosis is often only 9-12 months.

Additional information is available at http://news.pennmedicine.org/inside/2011/05/targeting-mesothelioma.html.

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