Asbestos exposure has created a global epidemic of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), with the rates of this deadly disease not likely to decrease in the foreseeable future.
This is the assessment of authors of the review article, “Malignant pleural mesothelioma: an update on investigation, diagnosis and treatment,” published recently in the European Respiratory review, a research publication written for healthcare providers, offering updates on advancements in the science and clinical practice of respiratory medicine.
The article succinctly reviews the epidemiology and pathogenesis of MPM. Then its focus shifts to the current patient experience with regard to key factors in their symptoms and treatment options with an analysis of diagnostic approaches, such as imaging techniques and pertinent biomarkers.
MPM is considered an occupational disease, with the exposure potentially occurring up to 40 years prior to the patient’s diagnosis. The insidious nature of MPM is that the risk of succumbing to the disease is not just for those who were primarily exposed to asbestos, but also among those who were exposed by secondary means. This most often occurs in partners and family members of the worker exposed to asbestos.
The subtlety of MPM, as well as its incurability, is a key reason why, the study’s authors say, patients experience “feelings of hopelessness and uncertainty about the future,” with depression and anxiety more frequently found to be common in MPM patients when compared with other conditions associated with malignant tumors. That is why assessing current scientific understanding and standard clinical practice helps both researchers and healthcare providers in attempts to find successful treatment options. Capturing this overview data was the aim of the authors.
The article provides an overview of the disease’s pathogenesis, symptoms, diagnosis and clinical management, as well as thoroughly exploring the patient’s experience, a crucial data needed for patients as well as stakeholders.
A significant contribution to the research literature is the authors’ thorough overview of future therapeutic options, such as the utilization of immunotherapy agents in combination with chemotherapy with immunotherapy, or multiple immunotherapy agents, and that “[n]umerous trials are currently underway exploring alternate immunotherapy agents and combinations.”
This overview provides those involved in the research and/or treatment of patients with MPM insight to where science is headed and how they can start thinking about treatment in years or decades to come.
The authors conclude that MPM is a complex disease with persistent diagnostic difficulties, even in an era of extensive technological advancement, with a diagnosed patient’s prognosis further complicated by the limited treatments available. They do, however, also offer optimism that new treatments currently undergoing investigation for MPM “will involve highly individual, personalized treatment,” with the expectation that a patient’s experience and potential for more a longer life will be improved.