From the blog

Nintedanib and Pembrolizumab – Hope for Mesothelioma Patients

Published: April 7, 2017

The latest findings in cancer treatments for the often fatal mesothelioma have scientists and researchers hopeful that they are one step closer in finding a consistent, effective treatment for the asbestos-caused cancer.

The LUME-Meso Phase II trial for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma focused on the administration of the triple angiokinase inhibitor called Nintedanib. This oral treatment is designed to block cancer growth by hindering protein kinases in cancer cells and stop cancer cell from growing their own blood vessels.

The latest completed clinical trial (Phase II) showed progression-free survival goal was met. Progression-free survival is the amount of time after treatment that a patient endures where the cancer or illness is still present, but has not advanced further. When nintedanib was added to chemotherapy treatments pemetrexed and cisplatin, progression-free survival rates improved from 5.7 months to 9.4 months. Overall survival improved from 14.5 months to 18.3 months.  Phase III requirements are currently underway.

Read more about the Phase II trial


A study published this month in The Lancet. Oncology and investigated by a team from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania notes the positive impact that the check-point inhibitor immunotherapy drug prembrolizumab (Keytruda ©) has had on mesothelioma patients. Immunotherapy treatments are designed to work with and strengthen the body’s own immune system, to better fight the cancer.

Based upon findings reported by Merck, the Phase 1b KEYNOTE-28 study’s purpose was to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and the anti-tumor activity of prembrolizumab. The study focused on patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and malignant pleural mesothelioma. The purpose of prembrolizumab is to block the protein PD-1 and its ligands, allowing the immune system to kill the cancer. This study evaluated 25 patients with pleural mesothelioma. Patients were give one dose of prembrolizumab every two weeks. Results showed tumor reduction in 14 patients and the average patient went 6 months without seeing the disease progress. Overall survival was about 18 months.

Summary of initial study


Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The thin, almost invisible asbestos fibers are easily inhaled and can become embedded in the lining of the lungs. The sharp fibers remain trapped in the lung, and over a period of time, the lining and the tissue become inflamed and can lead to a mesothelioma diagnosis.

The complexity of mesothelioma has made it difficult to find any one exact treatment that will cure mesothelioma.  Immunotherapies, gene therapies, chemotherapy, and radiation have all had profound effects on battling this aggressive cancer; however, combining drug treatments have also proven to be effective and researchers and scientists remain hopeful they are inching closer to the right combination that will have the most positive effect on mesothelioma.




Alley EW, et. al., “Clinical safety and activity of pembrolizumab in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (KEYNOTE-028): preliminary results from a non-randomised, open-label, phase 1b trial” The Lancet. Oncology (March 20, 2017). [Link]

Papadatos-Pastos, D, et al, “Clinical outcomes and prognostic factors of patients with advanced mesothelioma treated in a phase I clinical trials unit”, European Journal of Cancer (February 16, 2017). [Link]

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