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Advances in the Treatment of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma*

Daniel H. Sterman, MD; Larry R. Kaiser, MD, FCCP; Steven M. Albelda, MD
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*From the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine (Drs. Sterman and Albelda), the Section of General Thoracic Surgery (Dr. Kaiser), and the Thoracic Oncology Research Laboratory/Mesothelioma Program (Drs. Sterman, Kaiser, and Albelda), University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA.

Correspondence to: Daniel H. Sterman, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine Division, 833 W Gates Bldg, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, 3400 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19104; e-mail: sterman@mail.med.upenn.edu



Chest. 1999;116(2):504-520. doi:10.1378/chest.116.2.504
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Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a neoplasm that is commonly fatal and for which there are no widely accepted curative approaches. Mesothelioma is unresponsive to most chemotherapy and radiotherapy regimens, and it typically recurs even after the most aggressive attempts at surgical resection. Multimodality approaches have been of some benefit in prolonging survival of very highly selected subgroups of patients, but they have had a relatively small impact on the majority of the patients diagnosed with this disease. As the incidence of pleural mesothelioma peaks in the United States and Europe over the next 10 to 20 years, new therapeutic measures will be necessary. This review will discuss the roles of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, and combined modality approaches in the treatment of pleural mesothelioma, as well as scientific advances made in the past decade that have led to the development of experimental techniques, such as photodynamic therapy, immunotherapy, and gene therapy, that are currently undergoing human clinical trials. These promising new avenues may modify the therapeutic nihilism that is rampant among clinicians dealing with mesothelioma.

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