Page Updated: May 11, 2019

Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma Cancer

Chemotherapy is one of the most popular treatments for malignant mesothelioma. Chemotherapy works by providing medicines to eliminate cancerous cells, while blocking the cancer from increasing. There are a variety of different chemotherapy drugs to treat mesothelioma, and are often used while patients participate in other forms of treatment, such as radiation.

Any form of treatment for mesothelioma can get extremely expensive. With chemotherapy, treatment sessions (along with medication) can quickly add up to prices that are usually above the average family’s budget. Fill out our form to receive our free Financial Compensation Packet. Our packet is loaded with information on leading mesothelioma attorneys in your area, how to file a claim for asbestos trust funds, how to get paid in 90 days, and more. 

man undergoing chemotherapy


Chemotherapy is primarily administered via an intravenous needle, but in some instances physicians may feel that the pill form is more beneficial. Intravenously, the medication is able to travel through the body and kill cancer cells. The downside is that in many instances, healthy cells are killed in the process, resulting in hair loss and low blood cell count.

Another form of chemotherapy treatment is intrapleural chemotherapy, and is usually reserved for victims of pleural mesothelioma. However, it’s up to the physician to decide which patient this form of chemotherapy is beneficial to. Intrapleural chemotherapy works by inserting a catheter into the chest area and allowing the medication to battle the tumor. This form of chemotherapy is less invasive and doesn’t produce as many major side effects.

Chemotherapy and Mesothelioma

Years ago, physicians used only single chemotherapy as a form of mesothelioma treatment for patients. The success rate, around 15%, was extremely low. Since then, physicians began combining chemotherapy drugs in order to extend the success rate and help mesothelioma patients handle the disease more efficiently.

Since mesothelioma is such a destructive disease, physicians must find quick and aggressive ways to help treat it. Combining strong chemotherapy drugs together is more effective than a single form of treatment.

Keep in mind, though, that your physician will be able to determine which plan and treatments options will work best for you.

Popular Chemotherapy Drugs for Mesothelioma

As previously mentioned, there are a variety of medications used for chemotherapy patients. When treating mesothelioma cancer, however, some drugs have been proven to be the more viable choice:

  • Alimta: Alimta is used to treat mesothelioma more than any other type of chemotherapy medication currently used. Typically administered once every 21 days intravenously, Alimta is a systematic drug manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company. Along with the medication, patients are advised to take vitamins and supplements, such as folic acid and B12. In order to reduce skin reactions, patients are also usually given corticosteroids in conjunction with Alminta. Alminta has been recommended for patients in advanced stages of mesothelioma treatment by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Since patients in advanced stages usually do not qualify for surgery, Alminta is recommended as long as the patients are still able to take care of themselves without extensive help.

  • Carboplatin: Carboplatin is typically reserved for ovarian, head and neck, and lung cancer patients. It’s administered intravenously and usually takes about 60 minutes. Patients normally go through several sessions every month, and sometimes treatment may require inpatient stay at a medical facility. Patients are susceptible to infection after treatment and are advised to avoid other people who have colds, flus, and other types of infections.

  • Cisplatin: Cisplatin is usually not effective enough on its on, but when combined with Alimta, the success rate is much higher. Just as other chemotherapy medications, Cisplatin is administered intravenously every 21 days. When combining the two drugs, Alimta is typically administered first, followed by Cisplatin. In other instances, Cisplatin may be combined with doxorubicin, which helps put mesothelioma in slight remission.

  • Onconase: Onconase works like most typical chemotherapy drugs by targeting and eliminating cancerous cells. However, the difference between Onconase and other drugs is that when compared, it has much more manageable side effects. However, patients have to go in for treatment at least once a week. Treatment is given intravenously and lasts around 30 minutes for each session. Candidates for Onconase are screened thoroughly as it works best for those in good health.

In many instances, doctors will also administer doses of both folic acid and vitamin B12. These vitamins work to help reduce the typical side effects of chemotherapy drugs while at the same time not affecting the strength of the treatment.

Possible Side Effect of Chemotherapy

Keep in mind that chemotherapy drugs work by attacking cancerous cells. Unfortunately, healthy cells in the body can be affected by the medications, such as cells in the hair, bone marrow, mouth, and intestines. Because of this, the side effects of chemotherapy can be quite extensive. Yet, every person reacts differently, and some may experience more side effects than others. Typical side effects of chemotherapy include:

  • Patients can easily bleed and/or bruise because of reduced blood platelets
  • Hair loss from from the chemotherapy drugs attacking healthy hair follicle cells
  • Mouth sores and cuts
  • Nausea, which may also include episodes of vomiting
  • Low white blood cell count, which results in possible infections
  • Lack of energy and feeling lethargic

Keep in mind that these symptoms are temporary and will usually go away once you’ve finished the treatments. Meanwhile, symptoms can be alleviated with additional medications that help to battle lethargy, infections, vomiting, and more. Be sure to speak with your physician regarding your options.  If you have a high fever, you should consult with your physician as soon as possible.

In some rare instances, chemotherapy drugs can cause significant damage. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), drugs such as carboplatin and cisplatin have been shown to produce nerve damage which can lead to hearing loss, severe pain and burning in the hands and feet, and extreme sensitivity to heat and cold.

Many more chemotherapy drugs are available, and as physicians and scientists continue to learn more about mesothelioma, more options may become available in the future.

Getting Help

Remember to fill out our form to get your free Financial Compensation Packet, with information top on asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in your area. Keep in mind that if you have mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be eligible for considerable compensation. For additional assistance, contact us at 800-793-4540.