From the blog

New Treatments Target the Immune System of Victims of Mesothelioma

Published: May 31, 2016

Mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer, is a cancer that affects the mesothelium, which is the lining that surrounds internal organs. Pleural mesothelioma is cancer that appears in the lining of the lungs, and accounts for about 75% of all mesothelioma cases. Aggressive cancers such as mesothelioma take a toll on the victim’s immune system, causing possible further complications when treating this disease. Recent studies have placed more focus on the immune system in hope of fighting mesothelioma using the body’s natural defenses.

One study that is currently in Phase II of the clinical trial has scientists and researchers in high hopes. The anti-cancer drug that is currently being developed is an immunotherapy treatment for lung cancer takes a look at patient’s tumor characteristics.  Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to target and attack invasive cancer cells. The name of this immunotherapy is AGS-003 and the idea behind this type of treatment is to avoid using all chemotherapy, which can have toxic effects on healthy cells in the body.

In this study, researchers took ribonucleic acid (RNA) from a patient’s tumor and introduced it to “matured, autologous dendritic cells” (Meredith, May 2016) which are cells that are taken out of the body and cultured until their resistance to cancer is stronger. These cells are then placed back into the patient in hopes of controlling tumor growth especially when combined with chemotherapy.  There are not many treatment options for those suffering with mesothelioma because the cancer is so invasive and aggressive. Typical treatments often involve chemotherapy and surgery, but mesothelioma often survives these treatments. Immunotherapy has become a popular alternative because it uses the body’s natural immune system and focuses on attacking mesothelioma by not just targeting a tumor, but by making the patient healthier all around.  Since this new trial is now in Phase II, we will now begin to see more early information about whether or not the new drug or procedure works and will be provided with information about the safety and benefits.

Other studies looking into battling this cancer with our own immune system are taking a more natural approach and focusing on the nutrients we put in our bodies. Since mesothelioma is a tumor that develops in an inflamed mesothelium cell lining, scientists are looking into how to reduce inflammation to make it harder for mesothelioma to develop.  A certain micronutrient called polyphenol, when ingested, reduces inflammation and tempers the immune system, which becomes compromised once the disease takes form. Researchers looked at certain foods that contain polyphenols and found high levels in green tea, turmeric, peanuts, red wine, leafy greens, and berries. With a moderate diet of these items, immune cells can be boosted, and inflammation reduced which helps improve the battle against mesothelioma. While a steady diet of these polyphenols may certainly help in the prevention, it may not be enough by itself in treating mesothelioma. Scientists found that injecting polyphenols directly into the tumor has a more profound effect on fighting the cancer.

Alex Strauss, “Micronutrients in Tea and Wine May Fight Mesothelioma,” Surviving Mesothelioma (May 21, 2016). [Link]
Mesothelioma Research News, “Malignant Mesothelioma May be Prevented with Help from Food Compounds,” (May 24, 2016). [Link]
Nancy Meredith, “Phase II Lung Cancer Clinical Trial Could Bring Another Immunotherapy Option to Mesothelioma Patients,” Mesothelioma Help (May 26, 2016). [Link]

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