Progress on a little known cancer
Mesothelioma is a devastating cancer. It affects the protective lining that covers many of the internal organs of the body.

Mesothelioma is a devastating cancer. It affects the protective lining that covers many of the internal organs of the body. It is usually caused by exposure to asbestos. Until recently, little science has been devoted to this disease, and the research that has been performed has had little success in preventing, managing, or treating it.

Researchers and clinicians in the Thoracic Oncology (cancers of the chest) Group at The Princess Margaret have begun a comprehensive and coordinated approach to studying mesothelioma. The ultimate goal of this research is to detect mesothelioma at an early stage, improve prognosis, offer better therapy, and improve survival and quality of life. The primary objective of the scientists, physicians and surgeons is to improve the lives of those afflicted with either mesothelioma or its asbestos-related conditions.
The Princess Margaret is a one-stop resource for mesothelioma patients and has grown to be the largest of its kind in Canada. It is a comprehensive program with rapid assessment and diagnosis, prevention education, a screening program, immune therapy, radiation, research and psychosocial support. 

We see more patients with this disease than any other centre in Canada. Last year, The Princess Margaret saw 200 mesothelioma patients (50 per cent of the entire Canadian incidence of this cancer).  Six months ago, we would get one new patient a month; today that number has grown to 3 new patients per week. This growth indicates an increasing need for our work in communities all across Canada—work that has further reach beyond our borders.

Our strong track record for quality care results make the Princess Margaret uniquely poised to bring about the eradication of mesothelioma on a global scale. Some of our world-firsts include:

  • Conducting clinical trials with pre-operative radiation that has lengthened patients lives.
  • Novel use of immunotherapy that is safer for patients and has shown encouraging results for an amazing 50% of melanoma patients.
  • We are the only group in the world to set up a CT-based early detection program for patients exposed to asbestos.
  • We are one of the only comprehensive programs in the world, and the only one in Canada that can provide mesothelioma patients with a one-stop resource (diagnosis, prevention, screening, therapy, etc.).

How the Mesothelioma Program is helping patients

family.jpgIn the year 2000, this 21 year old university student was unfortunately diagnosed with Mesothelioma of the left chest. He was treated using three approaches in succession:
chemotherapy followed by surgery that removes the diseased lung, part of membrane covering the heart, part of the diaphragm , and part of the membrane lining the chest,  and then finally radiation. 

This approach worked.  He recovered well from this extensive surgery and it is now 12 years since his treatment. He is a University of Toronto graduate and is doing extremely well. His CT scan shows no evidence of recurrence in the chest or abdomen.
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