There is new hope for patients suffering from the asbestos-related cancer of mesothelioma. A drug commonly used to treat skin cancer has been paired with another leading anti-cancer drug by University of WA researchers and cancer specialists at Australia’s Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. This combination has successfully terminated advanced mesothelioma tumors in half of their test animals.

Imiquimod, a cream usually applied to treat skin cancer, when combined with antiCD40 triggered an immune response in the test mice that attacked their cancer. Researchers stated that half of the treated mice were cured even when their tumors were quite advanced. The supervisor of the research, immunologist Dr. Andrew Currie, believes this discovery is a major breakthrough in the treatment of one of the most deadly forms of cancer.

Thousands of people die from mesothelioma each year. This incurable disease is almost always caused by exposure to thin fibres of airborne asbestos which become lodged in the protective mesothelium sac that covers the lungs and other internal organs. These fibers then cause abnormal cell growth. In most cases, the symptoms of mesothelioma do not appear for over 20 years after exposure.

One of the greatest advantages of this research is that both of the drugs have been investigated for safety. With Imiquimod already available commercially and antiCD40, a anti-cancer drug noted for decreasing the size of cancerous tumors, being tested currently in clinical trials, the movement for this new treatment should proceed quicker than previous treatment options. Although Imiquimod does have some known side effects when being used to treat skin cancer, such as blistering and blackened skin, most of these symptoms disappear when treatment is complete.

University Professor Steve Broomfield believes the new mesothelioma treatment is should be highly regarded, as it causes a rampage by dormant killer lymphocytes which attack the cancer and at least double survival times. We join the officials at the National Center for Asbestos Related Disease (NCARD) in Australia, as we too are hopeful that this new treatment combination will “revolutionize” mesothelioma treatment within the next few years.