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Researchers are Developing a Test to Determine Which Mesothelioma Patients Will Benefit From Immunotherapy

Published: March 5, 2021

Doctors want to figure out which pleural mesothelioma patients will best benefit from certain chemotherapy drugs. Currently there are no tests to see what immunotherapy drugs might work on a specific patient. This leads to doctors trying out different treatments that have negative side effects to only find out the treatment does not work. Researchers were given a five-year $2.5 million dollar MERIT Award to study and develop a test to find the best possible treatment for each individual. If doctors know which treatment is best for each individual, they can save time and improve the survival of patients struggling with mesothelioma.

Not many patients benefit or respond to immunotherapy treatment compared to alternatives. Fifty percent do not see a response while 20 percent see tumor shrinkage and 30 percent see a partial response. If a test is created, people who would not respond to the treatment could be saved from the negative side effects that are possible with immunotherapy treatments and the standard of care for mesothelioma would change dramatically.

The FDA recently approved the two immunotherapy drugs Opdivo and Yervoy for the treatment of mesothelioma. This was the first time a mesothelioma treatment has been approved in the last 16 years. Another immunotherapy drug Keytruda was recently approved for a small number of patients. A phase II clinical trial is studying the effects of Opdivo and MTG201, a modified adenovirus. The best treatment for mesothelioma has been surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, but most patients do not qualify for surgery. Mesothelioma is usually too advanced or patients are too sick when they are diagnosed. Immunotherapy treatments have been a great advancement for the treatment of mesothelioma and more clinical trials could help unlock the potential of immunotherapy treatments for mesothelioma.

The study to test patients’ responses to treatment is based on a new technique that looks at 30 cell types from a tumor sample and looks at the architecture of the tumor tissue. Data suggests that the immune cell structure predicts how the body will respond to treatment. The study wants to see how they are related. The test will look at cell organization and molecular pathways to predict the response the body will have to the immunotherapy treatment. When the study is finished, a clinical trial will be conducted to confirm the results.

Ana Maria Rodriguez, “Study seeks to identify biological markers that predict mesothelioma response to treatment” Baylor College of Medicine (February 16, 2021). [Link]
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