A new combination of two existing drugs is being tested to treat mesothelioma. Merck and Targovax, which have the drugs Keytruda (pembrolizumab), an immunotherapy drug, and ONCOS-102, a modified adenovirus, are working together in the study. They can both be used on their own alongside chemotherapy to treat mesothelioma, but the results are not great. Combining them together could create a better treatment for mesothelioma patients which is what the two companies hope to see.
Approved treatments for mesothelioma have not changed in a long time. People have been treated with pemetrexed and cisplatin, which only has a median 12-month survival rate. The only other treatment, Tumor Treating Fields, was approved in 2019, but the help it provides is very minimal. Keytruda is also approved, but it is only approved for people with a high level of the protein PD-L1 or people who have tried other treatments that have failed.
Researchers expect ONCOS-102 to make tumors more sensitive to Keytruda, making it a more effective treatment combination. Studies with just ONCOS-102 have shown that the treatment causes an increase in PD-L1, which is necessary for Keytruda to be effective.
Studies with ONCOS-102 show that it is a promising treatment. When patients were treated with ONCOS-102 and chemotherapy, they lived longer. They had a median survival rate of 8.9 months versus the patients just being treated with chemotherapy who only had a median survival rate of 7.6 months. The 12-month survival was 64 percent compared to the 50 percent survival with just chemotherapy. The synergy between the two drugs could create a great response in patients and could help patients live longer, better lives.
The last trial with ONCOS-102 showed the safety of the treatment, so the treatment is going to be tested on a larger group of people. There will be 100 patients tested in both Europe and the United States. The study is looking at the combination of pembrolizumab, chemotherapy, and ONCOS-102 and is studying the differences in pembrolizumab and chemotherapy alone.