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Clinical trial will measure emotional strain of mesothelioma

The world’s largest cancer center has launched a clinical trial to learn how mesothelioma patients deal with their diagnosis and obtain emotional support.


A new trial, sponsored by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, will explore the psychosocial needs of people diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a rare but deadly cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs. An estimated 2,500 to 3,000 cases of the disease are diagnosed each year in the United States.


Although new chemotherapies and other treatments have emerged, there is no cure for mesothelioma. The disease is caused by exposure to asbestos and can take decades to emerge. Patients tend to be older when diagnosed, and most of them survive less than a year after learning they have the disease. Only 10 percent live longer than three years after being diagnosed.


Because the prognosis is so poor, mesothelioma patients often experience denial, anger and depression. Although hospitals and treatment centers typically offer patients access to support groups, mesothelioma symptoms, including chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue, can present obstacles to participation. More and more patients are turning to online support groups, which can be accessed from home.


The information gathered from the Sloan-Kettering study could shed light on the “promise of an Internet-based support group for patients with mesothelioma,” according to researchers. The data could be also be used to help lessen the physical and emotional strains of a mesothelioma diagnosis, while leading to more effective interventions.


In the first part of the study, patients will complete questionnaires on topics such as coping, mood, anxiety, depressive symptoms, interpersonal and social support and quality of life. Patients will then have an opportunity to participate in an online support group conducted one hour a week for six weeks.


Sloan-Kettering is currently recruiting English-speaking patients 18 years or older for the study, titled “Psychosocial Needs and Exploration of Online Support for Patients with Mesothelioma.” The research is expected to take a year and be completed by May 2013.