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During the first part of the twentieth century, many construction companies began using carcinogenic asbestos fibers in their building materials, including drywall, insulation, and ceiling tiles. Unfortunately, it was several decades before the general public discovered the link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, an aggressive and often deadly form of cancer. Although companies have since discontinued using almost all materials that contain asbestos, many individuals continue to suffer from this illness as a result of asbestos exposure. Fortunately, in the last ten years, doctors have made great strides in treating mesothelioma.

Photodynamic Therapy

Recently, doctors have begun studying a new technique, known as photodynamic therapy (PDT), which involves injecting a light-activated drug into the bloodstream. The drug is then absorbed by cells throughout the body, although it stays in cancer cells longer than it does in regular cells. Within three days of injection, when the drug has left the body’s normal cells but remains in the cancer cells, the tumor is exposed to a special form of light through fiber optic cables that are inserted into the lungs or esophagus. The drug in the cancer cells absorbs this light, which produces an active form of oxygen that destroys the cells. There is also evidence that PDT shrinks tumors by damaging blood vessels in the tumor and by activating the immune system to attack cancer cells.

Because the drug only works in areas exposed to the light, it is hypothesized that this form of treatment could have fewer side effects, such as vomiting, nausea, and hair loss that often accompany other forms of treatment.

Gene Therapy

Scientists are also attempting to attack mesothelioma at the molecular level by identifying, correcting, or replacing genetic abnormalities. One approach to gene therapy requires the injection of genetically modified viruses that target cancer cells. These viruses can destroy the cancer cells outright by discharging a genetic material that causes cell death. Other genes can also help slow the growth of blood vessels that feed cancer cells.

Immunotherapy

Another treatment in the clinical stages is immunotherapy, which is achieved through introducing antigens, such as chemicals, bacteria, or viruses into the body, which stimulate the immune system’s response to kill cancer cells. Because only specific cells are targeted, this form of treatment may have fewer side effects than other methods, such as chemotherapy.

Contact a Boston Mesothelioma and Asbestos Attorney Today

If you have been recently diagnosed with mesothelioma and have questions or concerns about your own exposure to asbestos, please contact Attorney Andrew Wainwright at Thornton Law Firm, LLP at (888) 341-1405 to schedule an initial consultation. Our offices are located in Boston, Massachusetts.