Straight Talk about Mesothelioma, a blog series created by Michael T. Milano, M.D., Ph.D., a radiation oncology specialist, as a resource for mesothelioma patients and their loved ones.


Doctors rely on scientific research to help us develop new treatments and diagnostic tools in the battle against mesothelioma. Clinical trials are a critical part of our research.

What is a Clinical Trial?

A clinical trial is actually the culmination of extensive research that begins in the lab. Testing is done on animals first, to help predict whether a treatment will be effective on humans, as well as to ensure that it will be safe. It is only when that research yields promising results that testing begins on patients.

The Latest Clinical Trials

Researchers throughout the country are engaging in all different types of clinical trials for patients with mesothelioma. Some of those trials are exploring new combinations of drugs and treatments, while others are testing altogether new types of therapies. Your specialist will be the one to guide you through the process of enrolling in the clinical trial best suited to your needs and within the specifications required of a particular trial.

The types of clinical trials are constantly changing. Here are a few examples of the types of mesothelioma clinical trials currently underway:

  • New drug: A clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City is testing a new drug for patients with pleural mesothelioma to see if it will extend patients’ lives, improve quality of life, and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.
  • New vaccines: This University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center clinical trial is evaluating the effectiveness of a cancer vaccine used in combination with chemotherapy.
  • New forms of detection: In addition to clinical trials that focus on new treatments, the National Cancer Institute, as well as other research groups, run trials on genetics testing and screening procedures in the hopes of finding ways to diagnose mesothelioma as early as possible.
  • Information about additional trials can be found at clinicaltrials. If a study is not registered on this site, do not consider enrolling on it, as it is unlikely to have been reviewed for safety and ethical compliance.

How to Join a Clinical Trial

Ultimately it is up to your doctor, as well as the team running the clinical trial, to determine if you are a right fit for a particular trial. There are many variables to consider, such as the type of mesothelioma you have, its stage of progression, and other treatments you have already undergone. Remember that a clinical trial is a type of research study to determine the effectiveness of a particular type of treatment. The investigators running the study will only be able to accept patients who fit the exact specifications for eligibility. Clinical trials, by their nature, are testing new types of treatments. This means there is risk involved in participating, and unfortunately no guarantee that the new treatment being tested will be effective.

Next article in this series: “Alternative Mesothelioma Medications and Therapies”