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Malignant Mesothelioma

A rare type of cancer in which malignant cells are found in the lining of the chest or abdomen. Exposure to airborne asbestos particles increases one's risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lining of the chest or abdomen.

Malignant mesothelioma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the pleura (the thin layer of tissue that lines the chest cavity and covers the lungs) or the peritoneum (the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most of the organs in the abdomen). This summary is about malignant mesothelioma of the pleura.

Being exposed to asbestos can affect the risk of malignant mesothelioma.

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk.

Many people with malignant mesothelioma have worked or lived in places where they inhaled or swallowed asbestos... Read more about Malignant Mesothelioma

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

There is no evidence that radiotherapy could help to cure or to prolong the survival of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma

The incidence of malignant pleural mesothelioma is increasing and is expected to peak in many developed countries in the next two decades. In 80% of the patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma there is a clear history of occupational or domestic exposure to asbestos. Very few patients are suitable for any potentially curative treatment and the effectiveness of radical therapy with surgery, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy in curing patients or prolonging survival is uncertain. The role of radiotherapy is controversial. It has been used as a component of multimodal therapy (plus chemotherapy and/or surgery). The reviewers have not found any reports of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that show that radiotherapy is an effective option for malignant pleural mesothelioma. There is a need for multicentre experimental studies assessing the role of radiotherapy in this disease.

Pemetrexed disodium (new anticancer drug) significantly increases the length of survival, as well as relieves symptoms of mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer, usually linked with previous exposure to asbestos. Its most common site is the pleura, a protective lining of the lungs. Currently there is no established standard treatment for mesothelioma. This review found a large clinical trial that examined the effectiveness of pemetrexed disodium, an anticancer drug developed to treat pleural mesothelioma, given in combination with another cancer drug, cisplatin. The results indicate that pemetrexed used in combination with cisplatin significantly increases the length of survival, when compared with cisplatin alone. Further research is needed into the optimum treatment regimen for pleural mesothelioma.

Raltitrexed plus cisplatin for malignant pleural mesothelioma: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: Yang SK, Tian JH, Yang KH, Yu Q.  Raltitrexed plus cisplatin for malignant pleural mesothelioma: a systematic review. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2008; 8(1): 32-35

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Summaries for consumers

There is no evidence that radiotherapy could help to cure or to prolong the survival of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma

The incidence of malignant pleural mesothelioma is increasing and is expected to peak in many developed countries in the next two decades. In 80% of the patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma there is a clear history of occupational or domestic exposure to asbestos. Very few patients are suitable for any potentially curative treatment and the effectiveness of radical therapy with surgery, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy in curing patients or prolonging survival is uncertain. The role of radiotherapy is controversial. It has been used as a component of multimodal therapy (plus chemotherapy and/or surgery). The reviewers have not found any reports of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that show that radiotherapy is an effective option for malignant pleural mesothelioma. There is a need for multicentre experimental studies assessing the role of radiotherapy in this disease.

Pemetrexed disodium (new anticancer drug) significantly increases the length of survival, as well as relieves symptoms of mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer, usually linked with previous exposure to asbestos. Its most common site is the pleura, a protective lining of the lungs. Currently there is no established standard treatment for mesothelioma. This review found a large clinical trial that examined the effectiveness of pemetrexed disodium, an anticancer drug developed to treat pleural mesothelioma, given in combination with another cancer drug, cisplatin. The results indicate that pemetrexed used in combination with cisplatin significantly increases the length of survival, when compared with cisplatin alone. Further research is needed into the optimum treatment regimen for pleural mesothelioma.

Malignant Mesothelioma Treatment (PDQ®): Patient Version

Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of malignant mesothelioma

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Terms to know

Lungs
One of a pair of organs in the chest that supplies the body with oxygen, and removes carbon dioxide from the body.
Mesothelium
Mesothelial cells are specialized cells that make up the membranes lining the chest and abdominal cavity. Mesothelium, or the tissue formed by mesothelial cells, helps protect the organs by producing a lubricating fluid that allows the organs to move without irritating nerves.
Peritoneum
The tissue that lines the abdominal wall and covers most of the organs in the abdomen.
Pleura
A thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs and lines the interior wall of the chest cavity. It protects and cushions the lungs. This tissue secretes a small amount of fluid that acts as a lubricant, allowing the lungs to move smoothly in the chest cavity while breathing.

More about Malignant Mesothelioma

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Other terms to know: See all 4
Lungs, Mesothelium, Peritoneum

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