Pharmaceutical drugs for mesothelioma work to kill cancerous cells and prevent the spread of the disease. An individual with mesothelioma often has an improved chance of survival when treated with a combination of drugs. This treatment strategy is known as a multimodal approach.

Multimodal Approach

The standard therapies for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Better outcomes are usually achieved when a patient tries a combination of chemotherapy drugs and another indicated treatment, such as surgery, radiation, or an experimental treatment like immunotherapy. Immunotherapy drugs work to stimulate the immune system to target and kill cancer cells without killing healthy cells. 

Additional factors that determine which treatments are pursued include mesothelioma stage and grade, cancer recurrence, and an individual’s overall health status. There is no one multimodal therapy strategy that fits all. Input from an oncology team composed of medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists is instrumental in guiding this approach.

Most Commonly Used Drugs

Some of the most commonly used pharmaceutical drugs for malignant pleural mesothelioma and malignant peritoneal mesothelioma include chemotherapy drugs such as

  • Cisplatin
  • Pemetrexed
  • Carboplatin
  • Vinorelbine
  • Ralitrexed
  • Gemcitabine

Immunotherapy drugs are also used to treat mesothelioma, including 

  • Ipilimumab
  • Nivolumab
  • Pembrolizumab
  • Bevacizumab1

Ipilimumab, in combination with nivolumab, is a first-line therapy for unresectable malignant pleural mesothelioma. It was approved as such by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on October 2, 2020.2

Who Qualifies for a Multimodal Approach 

Generally, when multiple drugs and other cancer therapies are combined to treat mesothelioma, better outcomes are achieved. The caveat is that the individual must be healthy enough to withstand the side effects of multiple cancer therapies. Similarly, if an individual wishes to pursue an experimental therapy as part of their treatment strategy, they must be healthy enough to meet a clinical trial’s unique eligibility criteria to receive the therapy.

As no one multimodal therapy can best fit all individuals, no one strategy has proven superior to another. Further research is needed to develop more tolerable multimodal therapies and to determine which treatment combinations are effective in which individuals.

Pharmaceutical Drugs for Mesothelioma