From the blog

New Immuno-Radiology Treatment Being Tested on Mesothelioma

Published: September 25, 2020

Mesothelioma is a cancer with a bad prognosis that is primarily caused by asbestos exposure. There is no cure for mesothelioma, so people diagnosed with the disease do not have a great chance of living long past their diagnoses. Clinical trials are people’s best chance of finding a better treatment or even a cure, so researchers continue to perform trials with different treatments. Mesothelioma treatment has come a long way and patients are living longer lives because of these clinical trials, so clinical trials need to continue if a cure is going to be found.

There might be new way to use existing drugs to treat mesothelioma. There is not a single treatment that has been found to be very effective, but different combinations of other therapies have been found to be helpful. Scientists in Canada have found that suppressing certain immune cells might help patients receiving immuno-radiotherapy for mesothelioma. Immuno-radiotherapy is the combination of immunotherapy, which utilizes the patient’s immune system, and radiation. When used on their own, mesothelioma can resist these treatments but when they are combined, they can be more powerful and stronger against the cancer.

Immunotherapy and radiation can work well together to treat mesothelioma. When the immune system fights cancer cells, cells called Tregs help keep immune system cells in check and make sure they are not overactivated. When radiation is used, Tregs are activated to make sure everything is fine. The combined treatment is looking to see if radiation and immunotherapy can be used together to prevent Tregs from being activated, leading to a stronger anti-cancer response.

Radiation can also be effective because of the abscopal effect. This happens when a tumor is irradiated and other tumors that never received treatment also respond. The researchers in Canada hope this will happen to mesothelioma cells when treated with the combination of immunotherapy and radiation. It was tested on mice whose Tregs were easy to manipulate. The mice were infected with mesothelioma and when they received radiation, they also took a drug to disable their Tregs. The combination of the Treg disabling drug and radiation showed there was a synergistic response between the two treatments. This makes the two treatments a good combination for treating mesothelioma. The abscopal effect was also triggered after multiple rounds of radiation, so this treatment is showing great promise in treating mesothelioma.

Mikihiro Kohno et al., Foxp3+ Regulatory T Cell Depletion after Nonablative Oligofractionated Irradiation Boosts the Abscopal Effects in Murine Malignant Mesothelioma” The Journal of  Immunology (September 18, 2020). [Link]
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