Survival after conservative (palliative) management of pleural malignant mesothelioma

J Surg Oncol. 2001 Nov;78(3):171-4. doi: 10.1002/jso.1143.


Background and objectives: Malignant mesothelioma is a lethal disease. Aggressive multimodality treatment protocols are reportedly associated with improved survival, but the apparent survival benefits may simply reflect patient selection and the variable natural history of this malignancy. Before embarking on our own protocol of experimental treatment for mesothelioma, we sought to identify important prognostic factors and document the survival of patients treated conservatively (with palliative intent only) in our region.

Methods: We performed a retrospective review of all patients with a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma seen at our center between 1987 and 1999. Since curative intent treatment had not been given, we assumed that measured survival would largely reflect the natural history of the malignancy.

Results: There were 101 patients (80 males and 21 females). Mean age was 65 +/- 9.2 years. Symptoms of disease were present for a median time of 5 months before the diagnosis was established. The most common presenting symptoms were dyspnea (46 patients), chest pain (30 patients), and weight loss (22 patients). Sixty-eight patients (68%) had a history of asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma subtypes included epithelial (43 patients), sarcomatous (26 patients), mixed (19 patients), desmoplastic (4 patients), and unspecified (9 patients). All 101 patients were treated with palliative intent. Talc pleurodesis was performed in 70 patients. At the time of analysis, 90 patients had died and 11 remained alive. Median survival was 213 (95% CI 137-289) days. Survival for the three major histological subtypes was significantly different (log rank, P = 0.0016). Histological subtype (epithelial favorable) was the only significant independent prognostic factor (Cox proportional hazard regression, P = 0.0009).

Conclusions: Patients with epithelial mesothelioma survive longer than those with other histological subtypes. Conservatively managed patients with pleural malignant mesothelioma have a median survival of approximately 7 months. These data from conservatively treated patients can serve as baseline information for future studies of experimental treatments.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma / mortality*
  • Mesothelioma / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care*
  • Pleural Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Pleural Neoplasms / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis