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Emerging Treatments

There is no cure for mesothelioma, but clinical trials and experimental treatments offer hope for the future.

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Key Points

  • 1

    Researchers are constantly working on better treatment options to improve prognosis.

  • 2

    Clinical trials are a crucial part of the process to advance treatments and find a cure.

  • 3

    Many new, emerging treatments have shown promise in effectively treating mesothelioma.

  • 4

    Immunotherapy is a large focus in ongoing research and has shown some success.

In the never-ending effort to find a cure for cancer, physicians and researchers are constantly looking for new ways to pinpoint and target the disease. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the current standard treatment options, but there is still room for discovery through mesothelioma research.

Currently, there is no cure for malignant mesothelioma. However, the treatments listed below offer hope to patients for reducing symptoms, improving prognosis, extending life expectancy and potentially contributing towards finding a cure. There is no set standard of treatment applicable to every mesothelioma patient. Patients must consult with their doctors to determine their options, and must decide for themselves what plan to pursue.

Clinical Trials

Top cancer centers throughout the country are performing clinical trials that provide mesothelioma patients with cutting-edge treatment options and hope for successfully fighting the disease. These trials also help advance research that is necessary for improving available treatments against mesothelioma and other asbestos cancers. Clinical trials are not open to all patients, but are often an influential factor in extending the life expectancy for mesothelioma patients in the advanced stages. Patients should discuss with their medical team before pursuing any type of treatment.

Points to Keep in Mind with Clinical Trials
  • New clinical trials are constantly emerging
  • Participating in a clinical trial is a process
  • Patients must meet eligibility requirements
  • New treatments often have many side effects
  • Tests and procedures can be costly
  • There are many guidelines and phases for clinical trials


Immunotherapy represents an entire class of therapeutic strategies that target the immune system. Cancer-specific immunotherapy – also known as immuno-oncology – is one of the biggest areas of immunotherapy research. Depending on the specific type of immunotherapy involved, it can either kickstart the immune system’s response to cancer, enhance the already active immune system’s activities, or suppress the immune system in part or whole (e.g., to allow other treatments to work).

Common Immunotherapy Treatments
  • Checkpoint inhibitors
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Therapeutic vaccines
  • Adoptive cell therapy

Keytruda, a checkpoint inhibitor, is becoming a widely-recognized immunotherapy drug to treat mesothelioma and other cancers. The drug has shown success in extending life expectancy for patients with mesothelioma and the National Cancer Comprehensive Network (NCCN) added Keytruda to their recommendations for pleural mesothelioma patients who had undergone chemotherapy previously.

Gene Therapy

Gene therapy is a medical treatment that attempts to fix genetic problems and mutations by introducing properly functioning genes into the body. Other types of gene therapy cause cancerous cells to become more vulnerable to standard treatments like chemotherapy.

Although gene therapy has been around for about 25 years – the first gene therapy experiment to be approved by the FDA was in 1990 – the use of gene therapy against cancer is only about 15 years old. As such, there are many avenues available for further research, study, and experimentation.

p53 Restorative Drugs

Tumor protein p53 – often referred to as TP53 or simply p53 – is a human gene that helps to suppress cancer. Cancer-related treatments using p53 are still in the early stages. Because p53 can help repair or kill cells with damaged DNA, there is a lot of promise.

Epigenetic Therapy

Epigenetic therapy is a growing area of focus for cancer research. Epigenetic therapy uses drugs to change a person’s epigenome – an individual’s record of chemical changes in their DNA – in an effort to treat certain conditions, such as cancer.

Research has shown that cancer often shuts down certain anticancer mechanisms in the epigenome, and figuring out how to prevent those areas from being turned off – and turning them back on when they are – could lead to a massive breakthrough in cancer therapy.

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is already used to treat a number of conditions, from acne to various forms of cancer. The treatment uses a drug known as a photosynthesizing agent combined with a specific wavelength of light to trigger a reaction that produces a high-energy form of oxygen (singlet oxygen) that reacts with cancer cells and kills them. PDT has been shown to be effective for treating mesothelioma, esophageal cancer, and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).


Virotherapy is a relatively new treatment option that uses viruses to target and kill cancer cells. Though virotherapy started to be tested decades ago, it continues to show new promise through clinical studies. Virotherapy in combination with immunotherapy, in particular, shows much promise for kill cancer cells and improving prognosis for malignant pleural mesothelioma patients.


Cryotherapy has been around for a long time, but cryotherapy for mesothelioma treatment is a newer concept. The main objective of this treatment is to use extremely cold temperatures to kill cancerous mesothelioma cells. There are a variety of major benefits, but also some risks and side effects identified with using cryotherapy to treat mesothelioma, as with all emerging and experimental treatments.