These Oncologists Want Better Rare Options

As reported in News Wise, these oncologists don’t like their options. They want to provide patients with the best possible options to tackle the lethal cancer mesothelioma, but their hands are tied. The only FDA approved option is a repurposed medicine but the benefits hardly outweigh the harsh side effects, let alone providing the depth of relief these patients need. They don’t want to slap on a band aid and call the problem solved, but they have no choice but to send their patients home to live with the consequences of inadequate health care options.
On February 18th and 19th, oncologists met virtually at the online medical conference, “Why do we need independent research in oncology?” to discuss mesothelioma, the rare cancer caused by asbestos. They discussed how to get basic research into tangible treatments for clinical trials, new models for designing therapies, and the impact of precision medicine.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer affecting the mesothelium, a thin layer that surrounds many of the internal organs. Different versions of the disease affect different organs, with common occurrences surrounding the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles. This causes difficulty breathing, pain beneath the rib cage, pain, swelling, lumps in or around the abdomen and lungs, unexplained weight loss, coughing, and anemia. While there are no cures, patients are currently treated using chemotherapy drugs, surgery, radiation, and targeted antibody therapies.

High Costs, No Answers

 While these doctors want better treatments, the lethal cancer is up against a barrier to treatment many rare diseases face. The solutions they need would only come with extensive time in the lab, but research comes with too high of a price tag to make the endeavor profitable. Drug makers recognize that the extremely high costs of drug creation cannot be offset by the small patient group, meaning they often ride on the margins of research on similar diseases.
As co-chair and Associate Professor at Temple University, Luciano Mutti explained,
“Unfortunately low incidence of mesothelioma means less financial incentive for drug companies, and lower funding for the research. Therefore, for these tumors, we need to address the lack of translation of significant results provided by the preclinical studies.”

Looking Beyond Repurposed Medicines

The conference’s co-chair and founder and director of Sbarro Health Research Organization (SHRO), Dr. Antonio Giordano, said,
“Drugs approved for other tumors have not shown efficacy against tumors like mesothelioma. A real disease-focused strategy is the only way to improve the prognosis of these patients.”
Still, while the doctors discussed how to pursue treatments tailored to the cancer, they caution against patients pursuing unproven treatments spreading online. These, they contend, often are actively counterproductive.  Mutti said,
“We are deluged by misleading online hype, oftentimes not justified by the factual data. This goes in the very opposite direction we should take to plug the gap of knowledge.”
Instead, they want real research, by doctors, tested on patients. No more of the ineffective options leaving patients desperate for more. “However,” Giordano said, “We also must be careful not to risk promotion of suboptimal treatments, which tend to be aimed mostly at gaining a new market for existing drugs.”

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