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Oncology (Williston Park). 2002 Jul;16(7):907-13; discussion 916-7, 919-20, 925.

Diffuse malignant mesothelioma of the pleural space and its management.

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  • 1Division of Thoracic Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Diffuse malignant pleural mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive malignancy of the pleura that is usually caused by exposure to asbestos. Between 2,000 and 3,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed annually in the United States. Difficulties in diagnosis, staging, and treatment set this disease apartfrom other malignancies. The variable clinical presentation and problems in establishing a definite histopathologic diagnosis result in significant delays in treatment. Three histologic subtypes of the disease are described in this review: epithelial, sarcomatous, and mixed histologies. The Butchart, International Mesothelioma Interest Group, and Brigham staging systems are the most commonly used staging systems. The disease's natural history involves aggressive local growth, invasion of vital mediastinal structures, and death within 4 to 12 months without treatment. Single-modality therapy of any kind has failed to substantially alter this natural history. Aggressive, multimodality regimens that include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy have resulted in improved survival in properly selected patients. However, innovative therapies are still needed to prolong survival in patients with early and advanced disease.

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