Mesothelioma is a mysterious disease with many questions surrounding it. One such question that continues to arise is, “Why isn’t there a cure yet?” It seems for many clinical trials, just when one patient responds exceptionally well and the team gets excited with the results, the majority of patients fail to respond the same way.
The question of why some patients experience dramatic results and others do not has continued to puzzle researchers and has stymied their ability to find a cure. Now, they are digging deeper into finding the reason for the dramatic differences in responses to the same treatment for the same diagnosis of cancer. Why do a few patients respond so well to one treatment, but the majority do not respond? The National Cancer Institute classifies these patients as “exceptional responders.” Other terms used for this group of patients is “super responders” or “outliers.”
Cancer researchers have long noted this group of patients that have responded well when most have received little or no benefit from the same therapy. Now, with genome sequencing, they can target the gene mutations for the patients that respond to the treatment and pinpoint other patients that will possibly benefit.
However, not all patients in the US receive genetic testing for personalized treatment to guide their care. One survey in 2012 of close to 400 medical oncologists showed that they tested for mutation in the EGFR gene in less than 40% of advanced non-squamous, non small cell lung cancer. The EGFR mutation has been found in certain populations of lung cancer and mesothelioma patients.
The NCI is leading an initiative to learn more about why some patients respond exceptionally well to cancer treatments that generally aren’t as effective for other people with the same cancer.
Progress is being made in cancer research. It continues to take time and money. To put yourself in the best position to possibly benefit from research, make sure to go to a medical center that specializes in mesothelioma and is actively researching for a cure.
If you are interested in finding out more about the super responder initiative, or if you have any questions about any aspect of your mesothelioma care, please email me at LHyde-Barrett@mesotheliomahelp.org.