Our Treatment Approach
Treatment for mesothelioma is provided at the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP). Our team of surgical, medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists and radiologists — all specialized lung cancer experts — work together to determine the right choices for your individual treatment. You will also have access to an array of support programs and services, including many developed specifically for mesothelioma patients.
There is no universally accepted standard therapy for mesothelioma, so our experts develop an ideal therapeutic approach for each patient. Options for therapy include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these therapies. A combined approach is typically most effective for the majority of mesothelioma patients.
Collaboration is the key to success. Our surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists and pathologists are working together in a unique, collaborative model that focuses exclusively on the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other related conditions. Our staff members meet daily as a group to evaluate the most effective options for each patient.
Patients with either suspected or proven mesothelioma should be seen as soon as possible for timely diagnosis and treatment.
Our new patient coordinators will work with you to quickly schedule an appointment with our specialists.
Our thoracic surgeons at the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) have pioneered and refined the most advanced surgical treatments for mesothelioma, including the introduction of interoperative chemotherapeutic drugs. Today, clinicians from around the world come to Boston to learn from our experts.
The purpose of surgery is to remove all visible disease, with the goal of extending life. Surgical options for malignant mesothelioma include:
- Pleurectomy (P/DC): removal of the lining of the chest.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): removal of the affected lung along with the lining of the chest (pleura), portions of the covering of the heart (pericardium), and the diaphragm.
Our IMP clinician-scientists have pioneered a novel way to administer chemotherapy to improve the effectiveness of surgical treatment. This strategy involves surgery to remove all visible disease, and then infusing a heated bath of the chemotherapy drug or drugs into the chest cavity (intracavitary lavage). Heating enhances the effectiveness of the drug therapy to eradicate tumor cells. In addition, other drugs are administered to protect normal cells from the chemotherapy agents and reduce side effects.
Medical oncologists administer chemotherapy, a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy is almost always part of a therapeutic plan aimed at controlling mesothelioma, with the goal of extending life, while improving the quality of life for patients.
Chemotherapy for mesothelioma is typically administered intravenously, or by a surgeon during a surgical procedure. The choice of specific drugs to be administered will be based on your individual needs. Many of the chemotherapies for mesothelioma are given along with a vitamin regimen that minimizes toxicity and maximizes effectiveness.
Our oncologists use their extensive expertise to determine the right care plan for each patient:
- At the first meeting, we address difficult symptoms you may be experiencing, including pain, shortness of breath, and emotional distress. We will also arrange meetings with our extensive support services staff, including palliative care, nutrition, and social work services.
- We provide efficient and rapid processes to begin treatment as soon as possible through coordination of diagnostic testing, evaluation, and diagnosis with the entire team.
- We have experience with the latest therapies and have the expertise to tailor these therapies to each patient for the greatest likelihood of success. Our team will discuss these options with you and help to determine the right care plan.
Radiation therapy is a noninvasive form of cancer treatment that uses various forms of radiation to kill cancer cells. Our thoracic radiation oncologists specialize in radiation therapy techniques that effectively target cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue. In the case of mesothelioma, radiation therapy has two potential roles:
- Radiation is given to palliate (relieve) symptoms from mesothelioma.
- Radiation can be given to reduce or eliminate cancer cells remaining after surgery.
Our radiation oncologists have access to the most advanced tools for radiation therapy. Depending on your individual needs, treatment may be administered through one of several techniques:
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) involves daily imaging to ensure the tumor is centered within the radiation beams for each treatment.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) or 3D-conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) both involve sophisticated computerized planning techniques to maximize delivery of radiation to the tumor while sparing nearby healthy tissues.