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Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is a relatively uncommon type of cancerous cell found in certain cases of pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs, and peritoneal mesothelioma, which develops in the stomach cavity. When viewed under a microscope, the cancerous cells display several defining characteristics, including a distinctive spindle shape and a large nucleus or multiple nuclei. As compared to other mesothelioma cell types, malignant sarcomatoid cells are generally more aggressive and tend to spread faster.

What causes sarcomatoid mesothelioma?

Like other types of mesothelioma, sarcomatoid mesothelioma is primarily caused by asbestos exposure. When inhaled, asbestos fibers can travel into the lungs and become lodged in the mesothelium, a protective membrane that covers vital organs in the chest and stomach cavities. A slow-growing cancer, mesothelioma develops due to the resulting inflammation, scarring and cell damage. In some cases, a tumor forms several decades after asbestos exposure.

What are the symptoms of sarcomatoid mesothelioma?

Depending on the size and location of the tumor, sarcomatoid mesothelioma may produce:

  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Persistent coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Overwhelming fatigue

Once sarcomatoid mesothelioma symptoms develop, they tend to worsen quickly.

How is sarcomatoid mesothelioma diagnosed?

Due to its rarity and resemblance to other conditions, sarcomatoid mesothelioma can be challenging to diagnose. Typically, the diagnostic process begins with imaging tests, such as X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans, which can reveal tumors and excess fluid in the chest and stomach cavities. If cancer is suspected, blood testing may be ordered to check for certain biomarkers that can differentiate mesothelioma from other conditions. The specific cell type and cancer stage can be determined through a tissue biopsy, which is the most important step in diagnosing sarcomatoid mesothelioma. Another diagnostic testing option is immunohistochemistry, a staining technique that utilizes specific antibodies to isolate antigens or proteins in a tissue sample.

How is sarcomatoid mesothelioma treated?

Studies suggest that sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells are resistant to many standard cancer therapies. Additionally, because the cancer typically spreads quickly throughout the body, surgery is not a viable option for many patients.

Chemotherapy is often the first-line treatment for sarcomatoid mesothelioma. Additionally, immunotherapy is showing promise in clinical trials, and early research indicates that it may be an effective treatment option for patients who previously received chemotherapy. In some cases, radiation therapy is used to alleviate symptoms.

Moffitt’s approach to sarcomatoid mesothelioma treatment

The multispecialty team in the Thoracic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center offers the latest treatment options for sarcomatoid mesothelioma. As a high-volume cancer center, we’ve acquired extensive expertise in diagnosing and treating all types of mesothelioma, including its highly uncommon cell types. In addition to our individualized approach to treatment, we are nationally recognized for our groundbreaking research efforts. Through our robust clinical trials program, our patients have access to promising new treatments that are not yet available in other settings.

If you would like further information about sarcomatoid mesothelioma, you are welcome to talk with a specialist in the Thoracic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. To request an appointment, please call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online.