Immunotherapy treatment for mesothelioma patients has taken off over the last year with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent approval of Opdivo and Keytruda, both effective in the fight against lung cancer. Survival has increased in mesothelioma patients treated with immunotherapy. Now, researchers hope to boost survival rates even higher by incorporating surgery with immunotherapy in mesothelioma patients.
Baylor College of Medicine oncologists have launched the first in-human study of treatment with a checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy followed by surgery in patients suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma, according to a Sept. 6 press release from Baylor College of Medicine. Called a test of “groundbreaking protocol,” the trial will assess whether a pre-surgical boost to the immune system followed by state-of-the art surgery will help combat the asbestos cancer.
“We are very excited to be able to offer this trial to our patients. Much of our own data suggests that pleural mesothelioma may be a more immunogenic tumor than previously realized, and I predict that immunotherapy will rise to become a critical component of multimodality therapy for mesothelioma patients,” said Dr. Bryan Burt, assistant professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and principal investigator of the trial. “This trial is one of the first of its kind in which immunotherapy is given before surgery, and from it, we expect to learn an enormous amount about this disease.”
The study, in which researchers hope to enroll 20 patients, will compare treatment with MEDI4736 alone and MEDI4736 plus tremelimumab. MEDI4736, or durvalumab, is a PD-L1 inhibitor. Tremelimumab is an immune checkpoint inhibitor that targets the T Cell receptor protein CTLA4. The anticipation is that these drugs will activate the patient‘s immune system and it will kick in to fight back the mesothelioma cells.
Clinical Trials Can Offer Mesothelioma Patients the Best Treatment Option
Mesothelioma is highly aggressive and is resistant to many cancer treatments. The prognosis for mesothelioma patients is usually grim: the average survival time varies from 4 – 18 months after diagnosis. For the close to 3,000 Americans diagnosed with the disease each year, clinical trials may offer them a breakthrough treatment not yet available through their physician.
Participants in clinical trials not only help the medical community in general, but they can realize many benefits for their specific medical needs. Specifically, benefits from well-designed and well-executed clinical trials allow patients to:
- Take an active role in their own health care.
- Gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available.
- Obtain expert medical care at leading health care facilities during the trial.
- Help others by contributing to medical research.
Renowned Surgeon Heads Baylor Mesothelioma Treatment Center
Part of the Baylor Lung Institute at Baylor St. Luke’s, the Mesothelioma Treatment Center is one of the nation’s largest mesothelioma treatment centers, providing consultations to more than 200 patients per year.
Dr. David Sugarbaker, former Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Boston’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital, joined Baylor in March 2014 as Director of the Texas Lung Institute at the Baylor College of Medicine and Chief of Thoracic Surgery in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery. Dr. Sugarbaker, who founded the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s, now directs the mesothelioma clinical and research program at Baylor.
Dr. Sugarbaker is one of the leading authorities on treating mesothelioma and is well known for his relentless fight against mesothelioma. He has focused his research and practice on pleural mesothelioma since 1988, and his contributions to the treatment the terminal cancer have helped countless patients and families who had no other options.
“This clinical trial is only one of many mesothelioma treatment protocols available at the Mesothelioma Treatment Center and builds upon a strong foundation of mesothelioma research at Baylor College of Medicine,” said Dr. Sugarbaker.
Photo Credit: Baylor College of Medicine