From the blog

Positive Genetic Studies and Treatment for Mesothelioma Patients

Published: May 6, 2016

Understanding malignant mesothelioma and the way it develops is significant when discovering prevention, development control, and the eventual lead to a cure. Cancer researchers at the Mayo Clinic have been researching the genetic composition of the disease in hopes to find a connection between the development of mesothelioma and mutations in DNA.

To find these genetic roots, Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) was applied. In this study, 11 mesothelioma patients were tested (7 with pleural mesothelioma and 4 with peritoneal mesothelioma). Using the NGS method, patient’s DNA was quickly and accurately analyzed to find genetic mutations. Results showed 86% of those with pleural mesothelioma had detectable mutations and over half of peritoneal mesothelioma patients had the same. Being able to find which genes are mutated is important to scientists and researchers because it is the basis of where they begin treatment.

The FDA recently approved Epizyme, Inc.’s application to study Tazemetostat, which is a “small molecule inhibitor of EZH2″ (Business Wire, 2016). EZH2 is an enzyme that can become unregulated in cells which can cause them to reproduce and consequently contribute to cancer. Scientists are hopeful that with the treatment of Tazemetostat, the cancer cells will not replicate. Phase 2 of this study is to take place later this year.

Additionally, a recent immunotherapy vaccine for mesothelioma has made significant strides and scientists are hopeful that it will change the way pleural mesothelioma will be treated. Immunotherapy vaccine CRS-207, when combined with a mixture of cisplatin and pemetrexed, controlled the diseased up to 94%. The vaccine is genetically modified to produce an “anti-tumor response” without having negative side effects on the patient.  Eighty-five percent of the patients who received this treatment saw tumor shrinkage. Dr. Thierry Jahan of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is very excited about the results, stating, “Our preliminary results are encouraging, suggesting superior clinical activity when added to standard chemotherapy. We have data suggesting that this immunotherapy works synergistically with chemotherapy” (Povtak, 2016).

Even though progress continues in the fight against mesothelioma, there have been some setbacks to the development of treatment and medication. The approval for a potential mesothelioma drug has been delayed due to some concerns as to whether the benefits of this drug outweigh the risks. Rociletinib, the drug in question, will be placed on hold until the TIGER-3 trial results are in. “Issues concerning the dosing, toxicity, and metabolism have not been completely addressed,” said Deborah Armstrong, MD of the FDA Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (Meredith, 2016). The drug’s main purpose is to target those with EGER and T790M mutations.

Mesothelioma is a cancer that is almost always caused by contact with asbestos fibers and is fatal. While it does affect those who worked with the material for many years, know that it can also affect others who have merely just come in contact with it. A 75-year-old woman who never worked with asbestos died of mesothelioma because she washed her husband’s clothes for many years – he worked in the building trade from the early 1960s to mid-1970s and the asbestos fibers settled in the fabric. The path of destruction led by asbestos is deadly and can affect a worker or a family member. With advances in science and technology, researchers and scientists are hopeful that with any new development about the cancer, new treatment options are not far behind.


Alex Strauss, “Genome Sequencing in Mesothelioma: The Key to a Cure?” Surviving Mesothelioma (April 30, 2016). [Link]

PRWeb, “New Research Reveals DNA Mutations Underlying Mesothelioma, According to Surviving Mesothelioma,” Bezinga (May 2, 2016). [Link]

Nancy Meredith, “Potential Mesothelioma Drug Approval Delayed Until Trial Results Are Final,” Mesothelioma Help (May 2, 2016). [Link]

Business Wire, “Epizyme Announces FDA Acceptance of Investigational New Drug Application for Tazemetostat in Mesothelioma,” (May 4, 2016). [Link]

NDJPeter, “Woman Exposed to Asbestos While Cleaning Former Husband’s Clothes,” North Devon Journal. (May 1, 2016). [Link]

Tim Povtak, “Immunotherapy Vaccine for Mesothelioma Gets High Marks,” (May 3, 2016). [Link]

Clovis Oncology, “Rociletinib,” [Link], “What is Immunotherapy?” The Mesothelioma Center, [Link]

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