Malignant pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive tumor of the pleura with an overall poor prognosis. Even with surgical resection, for which only a subset of patients are eligible, long term disease free survival is rare. Standard first-line systemic treatment consists of a platinum analog, an anti-metabolite, and sometimes anti-angiogenic therapy, but there is currently no well-established standard therapy for refractory or relapsed disease. This review focuses on efforts to develop improved systemic therapy for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) including cytotoxic systemic therapy, a variety of tyrosine kinase inhibitors and their downstream effector pathways, pharmacologic targeting of the epigenome, novel approaches to target proteins expressed on mesothelioma cells (such as mesothelin), arginine depletion therapy, and the emerging role of immunotherapy. Overall, these studies demonstrate the challenges of improving systemic therapy for MPM and highlight the need to develop therapeutic strategies to control this disease.
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