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Chemoembolization As Treatment for Mesothelioma

For years patients suffering from liver cancer, breast cancer, or colon cancer have been treated using a process called local chemoembolization.  However, some doctors think that the treatment might provide mesothelioma patients with a better option to treat the incurable disease. 

While the treatment isn’t approved for mesothelioma patients in a great many countries around the world, doctors in Germany have just recently began using the process to treat the asbestos-related disease with some marked success.

Local chemoembolization is a process by which chemotherapy drugs are delivered intravenously, through catheters, directly to the vicinity of mesothelioma tumors.  The process allows for a much higher dose of chemotherapy drug to be delivered and have that drug applied to only the area affected by the tumor.  Some patients may even receive 20 times as much medication in one dose than they do in traditional chemotherapy.

The treatment works by delivering the drugs right to the tumor and then shutting off the blood supply to that area, allowing the drugs to stay right where they are needed without letting them travel through the rest of the body.

To watch a short video on chemoembolization, click here:  Chemoembolization Treatment and Interventional Radiology at Stanford

Chemoembolization is often combined other therapies including surgery, traditional chemotherapy, radiation, or radiofrequency ablation in order to achieve the best results dependant on the individual case.

One of the first patients to successfully use local chemoembolization to treat mesothelioma and prolong her lifespan was Debbie Brewer.  A 47-year old woman from the UK, Debbie was diagnosed with late stage mesothelioma in 2006. 

Her prognosis, like many mesothelioma patients was not good.  The disease does not often manifest symptoms until years or even decades after initial exposure and by the time symptoms do arise patients have very little time left.  Debbie was given less than 9 months to live.

Desperate for a treatment that would help her live a longer life and enjoy a better quality of life in the time that she had left, Debbie visited Dr. Etienne Callebout.  A noted alternative treatment cancer specialist, Dr. Callebout suggested that she might try local chemoembolization.

He referred her to Professor Thomas Vogl, head of the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology at J.W. Goethe University Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany.  At the time, Dr. Vogl had just completed a clinical trial to assess the results of localized chemoembolization as a treatment for mesothelioma.  His results were promising and Debbie travelled to Germany to speak with Dr. Vogl about her case. 

Vogl uses the unconventional treatment to prolong the lives of roughly 20 mesothelioma patients per year, but it’s not cheap.  Debbie’s treatments alone cost her twenty-thousand pounds (roughly $34,000) which she had to pay out of her own pocket because the British public health system does not recognize chemoembolization as an acceptable treatment for mesothelioma. 

However, Debbie’s treatment was a marked success.  She underwent the procedure, supervised by Dr. Vogl, and was shocked by just how well the treatment worked for her.  Debbie’s mesothelioma tumors shrunk by 80%.

The process is not without dangers and as mentioned above, it is still being tested in mesothelioma patients.  It is also important to note that no matter how effective the treatment is, mesothelioma still has no cure.  The disease, caused by exposure to asbestos fibers, is incurable and 100% fatal.

Debbie lived much longer than the 9 months doctors had previously told her she would and in 2009 she campaigned to allow local chemoembolization testing to take place in the UK.  Perhaps when the international medical community sees the benefits of this new type of mesothelioma treatment, its use may be approved in other countries as well.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and are wanting to participate in alternative treatments or clinical trials and need help to cover costs, please contact our mesothelioma law firm that specializes in asbestos related lawsuits and let us help you.