A new mesothelioma clinical trial is taking place in Oslo, Norway. The trial is looking at the UV1 cancer vaccine alongside immunotherapy. The vaccine is a peptide-based drug that activates a T-cell response, allowing the immunotherapy drugs to work better. This will be the first time that UV1 is being tested on mesothelioma, but it has been tested on other cancers including melanoma, prostate, and lung cancer. The tests proved that it is a safe and effective treatment, so the tests on mesothelioma should not be problematic. The immunotherapy drugs being used alongside the vaccine include Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilumab).
The phase II study is testing the drug as a second-line treatment. Patients in the study have undergone first line chemotherapy and have had their tumors progress. There are 118 patients with pleural mesothelioma in the study, which started on June 15. The control group will just be receiving the checkpoint inhibitors nivolumab and ipilumab while the experimental group will be receiving the checkpoint inhibitors and the vaccine. The researchers conducting the study believe there is a synergistic effect when the two drugs are used together.
UV1 targets telomerase, which is a cancer antigen that allows cancer cells to divide uncontrollably. When telomerase is targeted, the immune system can recognize the cancer cells and destroy them. The immunotherapy combination has been tested on mesothelioma before and has shown promising results. The first line immunotherapy study showed there was increased survival when the combination of nivolumab and ipilumab were used together compared to chemotherapy. The median survival was not much larger for the immunotherapy group- 18.1 months for the immunotherapy combination versus 14.1 months for chemotherapy. It was much larger for the hard to treat subtypes though. Mesothelioma patients with non-epithelioid histology taking chemotherapy had a median survival of 8.8 months and patients taking the immunotherapy combination had a median 18.1-month survival. The survival rate was 38 percent compared to the eight percent survival for those taking chemotherapy.
Mesothelioma is a devastating cancer of the mesothelium, which surrounds the lungs in the case of pleural mesothelioma and the peritoneum in the case of peritoneal mesothelioma. The cancer is primarily caused by asbestos exposure, with many people using it every day for work.