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Mesothelioma Treatment

MD Anderson offers pioneering treatments for mesothelioma, some of which are available at only a few cancer centers in the nation. When we treat mesothelioma, we also focus on lung function and quality of life. To do this, we draw upon mesothelioma treatments that may include specialized, less-invasive surgical methods and highly focused radiation therapy.

Doctors often suggest a clinical trial (research study), some of which are available only at MD Anderson. This may include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a targeted agent. If surgery is not possible, some patients may be treated with targeted agents.

Targeted agents are innovative drugs that offer new hope for some patients with mesothelioma. MD Anderson offers more targeted therapies than many cancer centers. As a matter of fact, we are among the leading research sites discovering these treatments.

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If you have mesothelioma, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. This depends on several things, including:

  • Type of mesothelioma
  • Stage of disease
  • Location of cancer
  • Your age and general health

Your treatment for mesothelioma will be tailored to your needs. Your doctor may suggest one or more of the following therapies to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.


The main goals of surgery for mesothelioma are to:

  • Reduce the amount of cancer to increase the chance for successful treatment with additional therapy such as radiation and chemotherapy or targeted agents
  • Relieve symptoms of pain and shortness of breath

Two main types of surgery for mesothelioma are used at MD Anderson

Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) is considered at MD Anderson to have the best chance of complete tumor removal. It allows other therapies to be given with less risk to other organs.

EPP is a complex surgery. It includes removal of all organs where the mesothelioma has spread. This may include the lung, lymph glands and parts of the diaphragm and the pericardium. The diaphragm and pericardium are rebuilt with a sheet of artificial material. You must be in good physical shape to tolerate the procedure.

Pleurectomy or pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) involves peeling the tumor away from the lung, diaphragm and chest wall but leaving these structures intact. MD Anderson surgeons may perform a P/D if you cannot have EPP because of poor lung or heart function.

Usually the tumor cannot be removed entirely. Since the lung and diaphragm remain in place, high doses of radiation to the chest cannot be given.

Return of mesothelioma is much more likely with this procedure than EPP. However, because the lung tissue is preserved, lung function usually is retained.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) alone does not cure mesothelioma. However, when given after surgery, it may reduce the chance of the cancer coming back. In some cases, radiation may help relieve pain or discomfort.

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): MD Anderson pioneered this advancement in radiation technology, which is offered at only a few cancer centers in the nation. It may be used after surgery for mesothelioma. Only a few centers in the country offer IMRT. It may lead to better outcomes and fewer side effects than other types of radiotherapy.


MD Anderson offers the most up-to-date and advanced chemotherapy options for mesothelioma. Our dedicated thoracic medical oncologists have significant expertise in the management of chemotherapy. A team of nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, social workers and physicians who specialize in thoracic cancer cares will care for you if you receive chemotherapy.

Targeted Therapies

MD Anderson is leading into the future of mesothelioma treatment by developing innovative targeted therapies. These agents are specially designed to focus on each cancer’s specific genetic/molecular profile to help your body fight the disease. Many of the doctors who treat mesothelioma at MD Anderson are dedicated researchers who have pioneered and actively lead national and international clinical trials with novel targeted agents.

Treatment at MD Anderson

Mesothelioma is treated at our Thoracic Center.

Clinical Trials

MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials offering promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.

Knowledge Center

Find the latest news and information about mesothelioma in our Knowledge Center, including blog posts, articles, videos, news releases and more.


MD Anderson has licensed social workers to help patients and their loved ones cope with cancer.


Talk to someone who shares your cancer diagnosis and be matched with a survivor.

Prevention and Screening

Many cancers can be prevented with lifestyle changes and regular screening.