From the blog

Opdivo and Yervoy Have Been Fully Approved for Treating Mesothelioma

Published: October 9, 2020

A new treatment has been approved for mesothelioma by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The treatment uses a combination of Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab), which are immunotherapy drugs created by Bristol-Myers Squibb. It is the first new drug combination approved for mesothelioma in 16 years. The most recent approved treatment involved Tumor Treating Fields, which uses electric fields to target cancer. The last drug treatment to be approved was the chemotherapy combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin.

The combination of Opdivo and Yervoy was recently approved for metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. It is great for people with mesothelioma because it has shown an improvement in survival for lung cancer and mesothelioma patients. Previously, the most effective approved therapy was the combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. This treatment is not great though because a lot of the time the cancer spreads too much to be removed.

When Opdivo and Yervoy were used together to treat mesothelioma, the overall survival was improved to 18.1 months versus the 14.1 months for chemotherapy. The survival rate, which measures how many people live past a certain amount of time, was improved to 41 percent compared to the 27 percent survival for those taking chemotherapy.

Sarcomatoid and biphasic mesothelioma patients saw the most improvement. They had a median survival of 18.1 months compared to 8.8 months for people receiving chemotherapy. The two-year survival was 38 percent for immunotherapy patients while chemotherapy patients only had an eight percent survival. The improvement is modest in regular mesothelioma patients but harder to treat subtypes are showing great results.

Immunotherapy is the best bet for people suffering from mesothelioma. Opdivo and Yervoy are both checkpoint inhibitors and have a synergistic effect, which means they work together and are more effective when used alongside each other. Opdivo allows T cells to find cancerous tumors and Yervoy activates the T cells, leading to cancer cells being killed.

The clinical trial involved 600 patients between 114 treatment centers with half receiving the treatment and the other half receiving a placebo. Fourteen of the treatment centers were in the United States. There were negative side effects related to the treatment with 23 percent of the patients having to stop treatment completely because of adverse reactions and 52 percent of patients having to skip at least one dose because of an adverse reaction. The treatment includes taking Opdivo every three weeks and Yervoy every six weeks. Even though there are side effects, it might be worth it for patients to still undergo treatment because they could survive longer.

“FDA Approves Drug Combination for Treating Mesothelioma” FDA (October 2, 2020). [Link]
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