While the immunotherapy drug Keytruda seems to have taken the mesothelioma community by storm in the last few months, Opdivo, a similar immunotherapy drug is about to take over the spotlight with the launch of a new clinical trial. The CheckpOiNt Blockade For Inhibition of Relapsed Mesothelioma, or CONIFRM, trial has a goal of ‘exploiting the potential of immunotherapy.’
“This clinical trial will find out whether an immunotherapy drug could benefit people with mesothelioma, which is hard for doctors to treat successfully,” said Dr. Catherine Pickworth, Cancer Research UK’s science information officer, according to a May 19 article on News-Medical Life Sciences. “We urgently need trials like this to help improve survival for patients with this aggressive type of cancer.”
The phase III trial, according to ClinicalTrials.gov, is targeting mesothelioma patients in the UK, where the incidence of the asbestos-caused cancer has risen by 497% since the late 1970’s, who are third relapse following a platinum based chemotherapy treatment. Run by University of Southampton’s Centre for Cancer Immunology, and led by Professor Dean Fennell, Chair of Thoracic Medical Oncology, Cancer Research UK Centre Leicester, University of Leicester, the researchers hope to recruit 336 patients from 25 centers across the UK.
Mesothelioma is the signature cancer of asbestos. The cancer is known for its ability to quickly spread and for its resistance to chemotherapy. Many patients are treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, however, with the rise in immunotherapy, doctors and patients are looking to these drugs for new, effective treatments.
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The trial will assess overall survival, progression free survival, overall response rate, quality of life and various other outcomes. The study is expected to end in June, 2021.
Opdivo (nivolumab), developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, works by blocking the PD-L1 protein and activating the immune system, leading it to attack and kill cancer cells. Keytruda is also a PD-L1 inhibitor. Both drugs have shown in studies to be effective in fighting pleural mesothelioma. Keytruda is, perhaps, more well known due to eight-year mesothelioma survivor Mavis Nye of England, who went into remission after a two-year clinical trial of the drug.
“Preliminary studies targeting PD-1 in mesothelioma have shown promising activity,” said Dr. Fennell. “CONFIRM aims to definitively asses the true benefit of nivolumab for patients with relapsed mesothelioma in a setting where there is an unmet need. Critically, we aim to understand why patients respond (or not) to this drug, and identify biomarkers to ensure that we can personalize therapy to maximize the benefit for patients.”
Mavis Nye Continues Her March for a Cure
Even while launching the Mavis Nye Foundation, Mavis found time to play a part in this trial by serving as the Research Patient Representative. She will continue her support of CONFIRM as part of the trial management group. Mavis hopes this trial brings as much success to mesothelioma patients as Keytruda did to her.
“I have had such a great response to immunotherapy, but now I wish everyone could get the same, and wipe out Mesothelioma,” Mavis told MesotheliomaHelp. “I seem be on a pathway to help others even more.”
Southampton’s Centre for Cancer Immunology will be the UK’s first and only center dedicated to cancer immunology research. According to News-Medical, the Center is expected to be in full operation in summer 2018. The center will “bring world-leading cancer scientists together under one roof and enable interdisciplinary teams to expand clinical trials and develop lifesaving drugs.”