Malignant Mesothelioma

Volume 189 of the series Recent Results in Cancer Research pp 97-125


Surgical Therapy of Mesothelioma

  • David RiceAffiliated withDepartment of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Unit #445, The University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Email author 

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The treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma is controversial, particularly regarding the role of surgery. Though well accepted as a diagnostic modality, surgery is also frequently used to establish stage, provide palliation, and perhaps most controversially, to offer cytoreduction with the putative goal of delaying tumor progression and prolonging survival. Pleurectomy/decortication (PD) can achieve macroscopic complete resection; however, the ability to deliver effective postoperative radiation treatment is limited because of the risk of lung toxicity. Accordingly, it has been associated with higher rates of local recurrence compared to extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). Extrapleural pneumonectomy generally offers a more complete cytoreduction compared to PD but at the cost of increased morbidity and mortality. Adjuvant hemithoracic radiation is feasible following EPP and in most series local recurrence rates are lower after EPP than PD. There are no convincing data, however, to show that one procedure is superior to the other in terms of survival. Furthermore, no randomized data currently exist that demonstrate a survival benefit to any form of surgical cytoreduction over systemic treatment and supportive care. If cytoreductive surgery does have a beneficial effect on long-term survival, it will most likely be realized in patients with epithelioid tumors without nodal metastases.