Multimodality therapy is a relatively new yet extremely important advance in cancer treatment and mesothelioma specialists have embraced multimodality for mesothelioma. Multimodality therapy is the use of two or more methods of treatment designed to address mesothelioma. These treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, gene therapy, or immunotherapy. Therapy can occur in variety of combinations. Radiation can occur before surgery, while chemotherapy can follow. Multimodality is generally very individualized depending upon the patient’s needs as well as the stage and type of cancer. Proponents of the therapy believe the multi-pronged approach allows the patient to receive the maximum benefit from treatment.
Doctors and scientists began studying multimodality therapy—how to use it and its potential benefits—in the early 1970s. Early on, successful use of multimodality therapy was first noted in lab animals, and then in children with chemosensitive cancers. Today there is no consensus on general use multimodality therapy for cancer. Some studies indicate that multimodality therapy significantly increases length of disease-free life as well as quality of life, while others show no significant difference between multimodality therapy and other treatments. Studies continue to explore the potential of multimodality therapy as a strategy for the management of cancer, as well as the populations that most benefit from it.
Advocates of the treatment claim that multimodality treatment is the optimal approach for both tackling the cancer’s primary tumor and preventing the spread of the disease. This is because certain treatments, like surgery and radiation, are designed to target the main lesion, while other therapies, like chemotherapy, are designed to prevent the cancer from spreading.
Another benefit of multimodality therapy is that it promises a lesser long-term negative impact on the patient. Surgery was at one time the cancer treatment of choice, with the goal of removing diseased tissues in order to contain the cancer. But when other modalities like radiation and chemotherapy are used in conjunction with surgery, the patient reaps great rewards. Doctors can be more conservative with what they remove, which means that through the use of multimodality therapy, it’s possible for today’s cancer patients to preserve breasts and limbs that would have otherwise been lost with surgical treatment alone. Studies have shown that the rates of recurrences and death are lower with multimodality therapy when compared to those of surgery alone.
One downside of multimodality therapy is that is can be mentally and physically demanding, leading some to question whether the treatment is worse than the cure. A couple studies even indicate that some populations — particularly those not strong enough handle the harsh and rigorous nature of multimodality therapy — experience a higher morbidity rate as a result of the treatments.
Multimodality treatment can be expensive, and as a result some cancer populations can be undertreated as a result. Clinical trials and studies are one way of defraying the treatment’s exorbitant cost for the patient.
Most major cancer treatment centers have multimodality teams on staff. These teams are highly skilled at customizing individual cancer treatments, as well as follow-up care, depending upon the patient’s needs.
As much promise as the multimodal theory has shown, the nature of the disease and how it varies among individuals creates many difficulties in making a blanket determination on the approach’s effectiveness. Two patients could have the same disease at the same stage and receive the same set of treatments, but could have completely different reactions. The physical demands of undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments simultaneously can take a severe toll on some patient populations, such as older patients or those in advanced stages of their disease. These combinations of treatments can also take a financial toll on patients and their families. Clinical trials that are in the process of studying these approaches can alleviate some of the costs involved in using these new treatment avenues and the research staff can tailor the necessary treatments to the patient’s needs.