Oncologists sometimes check a mesothelioma patient‘s biomarkers, or genetic makeup, to determine which treatment will work best for the patient. However, the aggressive cancer can harbor multiple actionable biomarkers, still leaving the oncologist unsure as to which treatment to use. Now, one team of researchers is looking more closely at immune cells to predict which lung cancer patients will benefit most from immunotherapy, and the findings look hopeful for mesothelioma patients as well.
In a study from Cancer Research UK, researchers discovered a “new type of immune cell” in lung cancer patients that increased their chance of survival. Patients who had a large amount of this tissue-resident memory T-cell “were 34 percent less likely to die,” according to MedicalNews Today.
“These are hugely exciting results,” said Professor Christian Ottensmeier, Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Southampton. “For the first time we have a real indication of who might benefit from a particular drug before we make treatment decisions.”
Ottensmeier and the team focused on increasing the number of patients who will benefit from immunotherapy because there is no effective means now to know whether the treatment will work. These findings, he says, are a big step towards making immunotherapy care much more predictable.
The researchers found that in addition to the sheer number of memory T-cells making a difference in survival, when the cells gathered together, or clustered, in the cancer tissue, they created a protection mechanism. The cells also generated other molecules that turned on the cancer cells giving a boost to the immune system, leading it to kill the cancer cells.
Like with lung cancer patients, some mesothelioma patients have benefitted from the latest immunotherapy drugs, including Keytruda and Opdivo. (Read about mesothelioma warrior Mavis Nye achieving remission with Keytruda.) However, not all patients respond to immunotherapy.
Mesothelioma is a painful, terminal cancer with the number of cases across the world continuing to rise. Finding a new, effective treatment is critically important to increase survival. Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with the asbestos-caused cancer each year.
See the full study in the June 19 issue of Nature Immunology.