Background: Malignant pleural mesothelioma has a poor prognosis and there is limited effect of treatment. The Nordic Mesothelioma groups decided in the year 2000 to investigate a combination of liposomized doxorubicin, carboplatin, and gemcitabine for this disease in a phase II study.
Methods: From January 2001, to December 2003, 173 evaluable patients with biopsy-verified malignant mesothelioma were included. Two patients were lost to follow-up, but all the others were followed for at least 4 years or until death.
Results: Toxicity was fairly low. There were 56 responses (32.4%), of which 2 were complete; the median time to progression was 8.6 months, and the median overall survival was 13 months. Some patients had their responses 4 to 6 months after last treatment. For 116 patients with epitheloid subtype, median survival was 17 months. A subgroup of these patients with good performance status, early stage, and age 70 years or less, showed a median survival of 22 months.
Conclusion: The treatment yields good results with a high number of responses and long survival, and a low toxicity. The long survival of the epitheloid subgroup with good prognostic factors is as good as or even better than some studies on "radical" surgery or multimodal treatment, underlining the need of randomized studies to evaluate such treatment options.