While there is no cure for mesothelioma, those who are able to withstand surgery in general may have a better chance of survival, as the cancer is being physically removed. However, mesothelioma is a difficult cancer and often surgery is not an option, and the cancer is unresectable.
The success of immunotherapy treatments for cancer patients cannot be ignored, as scientists and researchers move forward with new techniques that target cancer without harming healthy cells.
Immunotherapy treatments work with the body’s own immune system, which has often been compromised by the cancer. When the immune system shuts down, the body is unable to not only fight off the cancer cells itself, it but is unable to fight off simple infections, making illnesses like the common cold, lethal.
Scientists and researchers from the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center are now entering Phase II of a clinical trial for durvalumab (brand name Imfinzi), an immunotherapy treatment that was recently approved in 2017 by the FDA to treat late-stage bladder cancer. Durvalumab has also been tested among lung cancer patients where its success has led to clinical trials for those suffering with mesothelioma.
Durvalumab is similar to the immunotherapy treatment Keytruda, in that it blocks PD-L1, a protein that is produced when tumors develop, and attaches to immune cells. This results in those cells becoming ineffective and the immune system begins to fail. When durvalumab is administered, PD-L1 is blocked, the immune system remains intact and is able to fight the cancer cells.
During this Phase II clinical trial that is currently happening in South Florida, chemotherapy treatments pemetrexed and cisplatin are given for up to six weeks, with cycles of durvalumab doses every three weeks. After six weeks, those who are responding to treatment or have stabilized will continue on with single agent durvalumab until these disease shows progression (which hopefully it will not) or until the max duration of treatment (12 months) reached.
It’s important to remember that the goal of this treatment is not to cure, but to prolong life in a disease where prognosis is generally under one year. Its goal is also to lessen symptoms, which over time becoming increasingly more apparent.