Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer of the mesothelium resulting from asbestos exposure. Many clinical trials have been found to help patients but there is still no cure. People primarily have pleural mesothelioma where the linings of the lungs have cancer, but it can also affect the lining of the abdomen (peritoneal), lining of the heart (pericardial), and tunica vaginalis (testicular). With there being no cure, clinical trials are the only hope for mesothelioma patients. Many advances have extended people’s lives, but a cure still needs to be found.
An immune system boosting drug used alongside immunotherapy for the treatment of mesothelioma is showing to be beneficial in patients. The study involved 10 people and showed promise for those people. It might not work for every patient, but there are still benefits for patients. Mesothelioma has always been hard to treat, and since there is no cure available, the best thing that can happen for them is extending their lives. Certain immunotherapy drugs can potentially do this by using the protein mesothelin that attaches to mesothelial cells. If effective, the drugs can train the immune system to fight the cancer cells in patients’ bodies.
The study looks at a certain group of mesothelin targeting drugs called LMB-100. The phase one study was looking at the safety of the drug for patients. The patients received an immune checkpoint inhibitor, either pembrolizumab or nivolumab, which help the immune system attack cancer cells. Some of the patients responded to the treatment. They were first given LMB-100 then given pembrolizumab. The patients receiving the treatment responded better than patients receiving pembrolizumab alone. There were four responses to the treatment, one of them being a complete response while the others were partial responses.
The responses in humans led to a scientist testing the treatment in mice who had human mesothelioma grafted or implanted into their bodies. The results mimicked the results in humans. The mice who were given LMB-100 before pembrolizumab had better responses versus those who just received pembrolizumab.
We must take these results lightly since the study only involved 10 patients. They could have just been responding to the pembrolizumab instead of the combination of therapies. Mesothelioma patients can still be hopeful though and should look for more studies involving this combination of drugs including the one being done by the doctor doing the smaller study.
“Study finds drug beneficial for shrinking mesothelioma tumors” National Cancer Institute (July 1, 2020). [Link]