Surgery for pleural mesothelioma, when it is indicated and why: arguments against surgery for malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Translational Lung Cancer Research 2020 February [Link]

Woodard GA, Jablons DM


Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) and pleurectomy decortication (PD) are radical operations for malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) that remain controversial among thoracic surgeons. There is a lack of randomized evidence to support a survival benefit when major surgical resection is included in multi-modality treatment regimens. Current data from retrospective single institution reviews and prospective trials such as the Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy (SMART) trial are limited by biased patient selection to include only the healthiest patients with most limited disease burden. This patient population predictably has relatively longer survival times than patients with inoperable advanced disease. The only randomized trial to date that has objectively evaluated the true benefit of surgical resection was the Mesothelioma and Radical Surgery (MARS) trial which actually showed shorter survival times among patients who underwent EPP compared with those treated medically. Critics of the MARS trial cite a high perioperative mortality rate for driving these results, however a similar trial has never been repeated to refute the MARS trial results. Finally, it is relevant to consider the high mortality and morbidity rates associated with major operations when recommending these interventions to MPM patients. There is a growing body of literature that identifies patients who clearly obtain no benefit from surgery including those with sarcomatoid or biphasic histology, nodal disease, elevated CRP, elevated platelets and advanced age. Surgery in MPM has risks and is of questionable benefit with outcomes data biased by patient selection of those who will have longer overall survival times regardless of treatment.