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Key takeaways: Chemotherapy is an exceptionally effective measure to treat malignant pleural
mesothelioma (MPM). It is a systemic treatment, meaning it affects both cancerous and healthy
cells within one’s body. Chemo seeks to control, cure, or provide palliation for cancer, meaning
that it achieves different goals depending on the type, stage and spread (metastasis) of cancer.
Because chemo is disruptive to all body cells, there are certain characteristic side effects of care;
however, most healthy cells are able to return to normal functioning once care is complete.

What is Chemotherapy?


Chemotherapy is a systemic method of treating cancer, as it affects both the cancerous cells and
the healthy cells in a patient. It is a class of drugs that has several methods of administration,
including intravenously (IV), orally (through ingestion/the mouth), through injection, or topically
(on top of the skin, through a gel or cream).
Drugs are regarded as chemotherapeutic based on their effects on cells, which is the disruption of
the cell cycle. The cell cycle is the micro life cycle of cells, which includes DNA transcription
and translation (the copying of DNA to be passed to daughter cells), how quickly cells “mature,”
and how quickly cells die. Chemotherapeutic drugs intervene in this process in different, micro
ways. Some drugs (alkylating agents) disrupt the arrangement of DNA, which in turn makes the
cellular reproduction process inert. Other drugs (topoisomerase inhibitors) intercept the enzymes
that are responsible for separating DNA strands so that they can be copied for daughter cells.

Other drugs (anti-tumor antibiotics) target cancerous cells’ DNA by disrupting the normal
sequence of amino acids, thus making DNA replication nearly impossible. While this isn’t an
exhaustive list of the kinds of chemotherapy drugs, it gives a working impression of how they
work: they disrupt, interfere with, and hinder cellular division. One characteristic of cancer–and
MPM in particular–is its rapid cellular growth; cancerous cells undergo exaggerated growth.
This makes chemotherapy a viable option: by slowing down the growth of all cells, cancerous
cells a.) are slowed in their production; and b.) cannot use the body’s healthy tissues from which
to extract nutrients and support.

Mesothelioma Chemotherapy Treatment – How it Works

  1. Cure
    When MPM is caught in a very early stage, there is an opportunity for cure. This means
    that the tumor(s) is completely eradicated through chemotherapy interventions; however,
    this does not mean that the cancer will never return.
  2. Control
    Because MPM is an aggressive form of cancer, chemotherapy will oftentimes be used to
    control, or curb, the further spread of cancer. This could mean preventing MPM from
    migrating from the pleural tissues or lungs into other parts of the body, which in turn
    results in an increased prognosis. When used to “control,” chemotherapy helps manage a
    cancer long-term–akin to treating a chronic illness.
  3. Palliative Care
    When “cure” or “control” do not apply to the staging or metastasis of MPM,
    chemotherapy can help to increase one’s quality of life. Palliative care via chemotherapy
    seeks to ease one’s pain and discomfort by either shrinking tumors or preventing further
    spread.

Implications of Care


Because chemotherapy interferes with the reproductive efforts of all cells, it’s important to note
that there are distinct side effects associated with its use. Healthy cells that reproduce relatively
quickly are impacted the most: skin cells, hair cells, cells in the digestive and reproductive tracts,
and cells that create blood (located in the bone marrow of long bones). Some side effects include
general fatigue, susceptibility to infection (immunosuppression), hair loss, changes in appetite
and digestion, changes in mood, issues with fertility, nerve problems, and more. While the side
effects are significant, the success of chemotherapy outweighs the temporary side effects.
Doctors often prescribe other medications and treatments to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy
on quality of life. Additionally, chemotherapy is often paired with other forms of treatment in
order to successfully (and contextually) treat MPM.


If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please call The Halpern Law Firm
at (800) 505-6000. We are here to help you navigate the legal process of filing a claim to receive
compensation for your cancer diagnosis. We help mesothelioma victims and their families in
Pennsylvania.

Sources:
What is Chemotherapy? | Chemo Treatment for Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved February 1, 2024,
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/managing-cancer/treatment-types/chemotherapy.html

Nowak, A. K. (2012). Chemotherapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma: A review of
current management and a look to the future. Annals of Cardiothoracic Surgery, 1(4),
508–515. https://doi.org/10.3978/j.issn.2225-319X.2012.10.05


Written By Carina Filemyr

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Page Reviewed and Edited by
Dave Halpern, Mesothelioma Attorney

Dave Halpern is a Pennsylvania and New Jersey mesothelioma attorney with over 30 years of experience. He has investigated hundreds of cases and won numerous multimillion dollar settlements and verdicts for asbestos victims. Dave prides himself on working tirelessly to help his clients in their time of need. 

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