From the blog

Keytruda and Tumor Treating Fields Combination Could Soon be Used for Mesothelioma

Published: August 28, 2020

A clinical trial being tested on lung cancer could potentially be a good treatment for people with mesothelioma. The combination of Keytruda and Tumor Treating Fields is being tested for non-small cell lung cancer. Keytruda is an immune checkpoint inhibitor that allows the immune system to find cancer cells hiding within the PD-1 pathway. It is the most recent drug to be approved as a first line treatment for mesothelioma, which occurred in 2020. Tumor Treating Fields use electrical fields to fight cancer, and they have been recently approved for mesothelioma patients. The combination of these two treatments that are individually approved for mesothelioma are being tested on PD-L1 positive non-small cell lung cancer patients.

The combination of the two treatments is being tested to see if it improves the response to cancer. Researchers are also testing the progression free survival at six months, the one-year survival rate, and how long the response lasts if there is a response at all. Most lung cancer cases are non-small cell (85 percent). It is a very aggressive form with only 24 percent of patients living five years after they are diagnosed. With Keytruda and Tumor Treating Fields being approved on their own for mesothelioma, the hope is that they will be more effective as a combination when used on different cancers.

Data from a study of Tumor Treating Fields and an anti-PD-1 therapy was published earlier this year. The data shows that there can be an anticancer response in people when they are treated with the combination. The data also points to the Tumor Treating Fields creating a better immune response. Once the cells die from the Tumor Treating Fields, they can further kill cancer cells. The researchers in the study were able to find that cells dying from the Tumor Treating Fields had a specific molecular pattern and had calreticulin on their surfaces. This could be a potential reason why the immune cells were more effective. When the anti-PD-1 treatment and Tumor Treating Fields were tested, there was also a lower tumor volume and a higher level of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes.

There are many treatment centers around the United States that can treat patients with Tumor Treating Fields, with more centers seeking approval. Patients do not just receive Tumor Treating Fields as treatment though. They also take chemotherapy every three weeks up to six times. The treatment is not a cure for mesothelioma, but it can increase survival for those suffering from the cancer. Hopefully, the clinical trial utilizing the two treatments could lead to the combination being used for mesothelioma in the future and more people living longer with the aggressive cancer.

“Novocure Announces Clinical Trial Collaboration with MSD to Evaluate Tumor Treating Fields Together with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer” Novocure (July 15, 2020). [Link]
“Preclinical Data Show Tumor Treating Fields Induces Immunogenic Cell Death Resulting in Enhanced Antitumor Efficacy When Combined with Anti-PD-1 Therapy” Novocure (March 12, 2020). [Link]
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