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Desmoplastic Mesothelioma

Desmoplastic mesothelioma is an aggressive and rare form of pleural mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma is cancer that develops in the mesothelial cells – the lining that covers the lungs, abdomen, heart and chest.  Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. If a person has been exposed to asbestos, they should seek medical attention immediately to determine the best course of action, whether that be monitoring or actual treatment.

The cancer cells in desmoplastic tumors differ from those found in other cancers, such as lung or breast cancer. The desmoplastic mesothelioma tumor cells have a distinctive appearance under a microscope and tend to develop more slowly than other cancers. Desmoplastic mesothelioma typically takes decades to develop. Desmoplastic mesothelioma is most common in males and typically occurs after the age of 40.

Key Facts About Desmoplastic Mesothelioma

  • Desmoplastic mesothelioma accounts for around 5–10% of malignant mesotheliomas.
  • It is a subtype of sarcomatoid mesothelioma.
  • The US Social Security Program Operations Manual System (POMS) states that the median survival rate for people with desmoplastic mesothelioma is approximately six months after diagnosis.
  • It typically occurs in the lungs but can sometimes develop in the heart or stomach regions.
  • Cells appear as dense bundles of collagen fibers in irregular ‘cartwheel’ patterns.

What Is Desmoplastic Mesothelioma?

Desmoplastic mesothelioma is a rare subtype of sarcomatoid mesothelioma, a cancer that forms in the thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs and abdomen. It is caused by asbestos exposure, which can happen through inhalation, ingestion, or direct contact with the skin.

The term “desmoplastic” is in relation to the signature masses of fibrous connective tissue produced in the areas impacted by the mesothelioma.

What Do Desmoplastic Cells Look Like?

The desmoplastic type of mesothelioma cells are found in an irregular pattern and have a dense appearance. With this type of cancer, the cells are usually found to be in bundles. The bundle patterns can be seen as a ‘cartwheel’ shape or as a ‘plaid’ pattern.

What Causes Desmoplastic Mesothelioma?

Desmoplastic mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and other internal organs.

It is caused by exposure to asbestos, a group of naturally occurring mineral fibers that were commonly used in construction and other industries until the late 20th century.

Although asbestos has been banned in many countries, including the United States, it remains a major public health concern due to its continued use in some countries and the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases.

Prevention of desmoplastic mesothelioma involves avoiding exposure to asbestos, either by avoiding contact with asbestos-containing materials or by using protective equipment and ventilation when working with such materials. For individuals who have already been exposed to asbestos, regular medical check-ups and early detection of symptoms can improve the chances of survival.

Symptoms of Desmoplastic Mesothelioma

Symptoms of desmoplastic mesothelioma typically develop gradually over a period of several years, and may include shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing, and weight loss. People may not initially notice that they have anything wrong, so it may take some time before they seek medical attention.

Other symptoms of desmoplastic may include:

  • trouble swallowing
  • tightness in the chest
  • coughing up blood

These symptoms are often non specific, meaning that they could be caused by a number of different conditions. Desmoplastic mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed as other conditions, such as pneumonia or lung cancer, which can delay treatment and reduce the chances of survival.

Diagnosing Desmoplastic Mesothelioma

Diagnosis of desmoplastic mesothelioma typically involves a combination of imaging tests, biopsies, and other laboratory tests. Doctors will also carry out a physical examination and ask you about any past exposure to asbestos.


The purpose of a biopsy is to remove tissue from the body in order to examine it under a microscope. Biopsies are often used to diagnose cancer because they allow doctors to see what the tumor cells look like under the microscope. A pathologist will examine the tissue under a microscope and send the report back to your doctor.

If your doctor suspects you have mesothelioma, they may recommend that you have a biopsy done on any abnormal tissues in your body. This way they can confirm their diagnosis and also determine which type of mesothelioma you have. Knowing which type you have allows doctors to create a treatment plan for you.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests are used to detect the tumor and to see the extent of the cancer.

The most common imaging tests for desmoplastic mesothelioma are chest X-rays, CT scans, and PET scans.

A chest X-ray is a type of imaging test that takes pictures of the inside of your body using a machine called an X-ray machine. A CT scan is an imaging test that uses x-rays to take pictures of your organs and bones. A PET scan is an imaging test that uses a small amount of radioactive material (called a tracer) injected into your blood to show how well your cells are working.

What are the Treatment Options for Desmoplastic Mesothelioma?

Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, although the effectiveness of these treatments is limited by the aggressive nature of the disease and the advanced stage at which it is often diagnosed.


Unfortunately, often by the time that desmoplastic mesothelioma is diagnosed, surgery is no longer an option. That is because most types of sarcomatoid mesothelioma, including desmoplastic mesothelioma, spread throughout the body quickly. This makes it more difficult to remove the tumor surgically.


Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is used for desmoplastic mesothelioma.

Chemotherapy works by killing cells that divide rapidly, such as cancer cells. It also stops cancer cells from dividing and growing into new tumor masses. The goal of chemotherapy is to lower the number of tumor cells in your body for a period of time so that your immune system can do its job better and fight off the remaining tumor cells.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is one of the most common treatments for malignant tumors. It is also used to treat desmoplastic mesothelioma.

Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by damaging their DNA so they cannot divide or reproduce normally. Sometimes radiation therapy can cause damage to healthy tissue near where it was delivered, but this damage usually heals on its own

What is the Prognosis for Desmoplastic Mesothelioma?

The prognosis for desmoplastic mesothelioma is generally poor, with a median survival time of less than one year from diagnosis. However, some patients may live longer with appropriate treatment and supportive care.

According to one study, the median survival time of sarcomatoid-type mesothelioma is 5.5 months. This study also notes that the research is also limited due to the limited number of desmoplastic mesothelioma cases at this time. More cases need to be diagnosed in order to give an accurate outlook for people with desmoplastic mesothelioma.


Read on to learn the answers to several frequently asked questions regarding desmoplastic mesothelioma.

What is desmoplastic mesothelioma?

Desmoplastic mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops from the cells lining the thin membrane surrounding the lungs, abdomen, and heart. The disease is most often caused by exposure to asbestos.

The term desmoplastic refers to a type of tissue in which the cells are tightly packed together to form a firm matrix. Desmoplastic mesothelioma may be difficult to detect because it often does not produce symptoms until it has spread beyond its original site.

What does desmoplastic mean?

Desmoplastic is a term that is used to describe the tissue that is found in the skin. It is made up of collagen, elastin, and reticular fibers.

The skin’s desmoplastic layer protects from external factors like water and chemicals. It also aids in preventing heat loss from the body. The desmoplastic layer has three main functions: it ensures that wounds heal properly, helps maintain skin tone, and provides a barrier to contaminants on the skin’s surface.

Which of the two types of mesothelioma is desmoplastic mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma can be broadly categorized as either epithelioid mesothelioma or sarcomatoid mesothelioma. Desmoplastic mesothelioma is a rare type of sarcomatoid mesothelioma. This is more aggressive than epithelioid mesothelioma and therefore typically has a worse prognosis.

Next Steps

A desmoplastic mesothelioma diagnosis is a life-changing event. It is important to know that you are not alone and there are many resources available to help you through this difficult time.

The next steps you should take depend on your diagnosis and cancer stage. For example, if you have stage I or II desmoplastic mesothelioma, surgery may be an option for treatment. If you have stage III or IV desmoplastic mesothelioma, chemotherapy may be the best course of treatment. Speak to your healthcare team to determine your options

Ultimately, treatment aims to be palliative – that is, making people comfortable for as long as possible. Desmoplastic mesothelioma is a terminal illness, for which there is no cure.