Malignant pleural mesothelioma, usually caused by asbestos exposure, is still considered an incurable cancer with a life expectancy often cited in the one to one and a half year range with the current standard of care chemotherapy.  Surgery is the modality most likely to be associated with prolonged remission.  It, however, remains investigational and must always be combined with other modalities in an effort to treat the microscopic disease that will remain even after the most aggressive operations. 

One such modality, photodynamic therapy, is a light-based cancer treatment well-suited as a component of a surgery-based multimodal treatment plan.  Utilizing intraoperative photodynamic therapy enabled development of a less drastic surgical procedure, extended pleurectomy-decortication, or lung-sparing surgery for mesothelioma, which also yields encouraging survival results.  A unique aspect of photodynamic therapy is its stimulation of a tumor-directed immune response, a promising feature for future treatment design.

Joseph S. Friedberg, MD is the Charles Reid Edwards Professor of Surgery and Director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine Mesothelioma Treatment and Research Center at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC).  He is one of the pioneers in lung-sparing surgery for mesothelioma.  Dr. Friedberg and his team published results that photodynamic therapy with extended pleurectomy-decortication and chemotherapy, for highly selected patients, resulted in a median survival of nearly three years for all the patients in their study and over seven years for those without nodal involvement.

Dr. Friedberg states, “Mesothelioma is one of the most challenging cancers to treat and epitomizes the need for, and benefit of, a team of dedicated specialists who are able to individualize treatment for every patient.  We have at UMGCCC one of the most comprehensive mesothelioma programs in the world and have integrated our treatment program with our research programs, which range from discovery science to clinical trials.  We truly aim to offer the best care for mesothelioma patients available anywhere today and we are working very hard to develop the treatments for tomorrow.”

To refer a mesothelioma patient, call 410-328-6366.

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