Chemotherapy in malignant pleural mesothelioma. A review.
PURPOSE AND DESIGN: We reviewed the published literature of clinical studies in malignant pleural mesothelioma, including phase II trials of the newer antifolates and plant derivatives, as well as older single-agent and combination chemotherapy trials. We excluded trials with less than 15 patients, although we have mentioned smaller trials in the text to make a specific point, as well as ones that show promise. We have also included confidence intervals when cited in the original reports, or calculated them when absent. RESULTS: No drugs have consistently induced a response greater than 20%. Higher response rates have been reported with detorubicin, high-dose methotrexate, and edatrexate at 26%, 37%, and 25%, respectively, but these have yet to be confirmed. Agents that produce response rates in 10% to 20% of patients include doxorubicin, epirubicin, mitomycin, cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide, cisplatin, and carboplatin. Combination chemotherapy trials do not demonstrate a consistently greater response rate than single-agent trials. However, the combination of doxorubicin, cisplatin, bleomycin, and mitomycin demonstrated a response rate of 44% (95% confidence interval, 27% to 63%), but this remains unconfirmed. Intrapleural therapy using interferon gamma, particularly for small-volume disease, shows promise. CONCLUSION: The successful treatment of unresectable pleural mesothelioma awaits the discovery of active drugs. Recent trials of high-dose methotrexate and other antifolates are encouraging. Newer agents, including suramin, should be evaluated in phase II trials. Off-protocol combination therapy cannot be recommended over single-agent therapy, but studies that use combinations of the newer agents should be conducted.
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