From the blog

Targeted Immunotherapy Warrants More Research for Those Suffering from Pleural Mesothelioma

Published: March 11, 2019

Late last month, the Clinical Respiratory Journal released their findings on the efficacy of intrapleural immunotherapy, which is a highly targeted approach of receiving immunotherapy treatment for those suffering from mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a cancer caused only by asbestos exposure. Since asbestos is the only known cause, mesothelioma is sometimes referred to as “asbestos cancer.” Asbestos fibers are small, nearly invisible, and easily inhaled. Once inhaled, the fibers travel through the body and become embedded in soft tissue or lining of various organs (known as the mesothelium). The fibers cause scarring and inflammation, which damages the cell’s DNA and allows the cells to grow uncontrollably and form tumors.  The cancer starts in mesothelial cells. Mesothelioma is difficult to treat; the cancer is often in the advanced stages when detected. Typical treatments include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, but with the ongoing success of immunotherapy in cancer treatment, this latest method is gaining in popularity.

Immunotherapy works with and strengthens the body’s own immune system so the body can fight off the cancer naturally, and without the sometimes debilitating side effects that come from other treatments like chemotherapy.

Immunotherapy treatments may:

  • Stop or slow down the growth of cancer cells
  • Stop the cancer from spreading
  • Destroy cancer cells, without causing any damage to the surrounding healthy cells.

Side effects are typically less severe.

This latest study regarding intrapleural immunotherapy investigated different methods one could receive this treatment in hopes of finding the most successful approach. Data reviewed was from conference reports published over a 20-year span between 1998 and 2018 with 26 different clinical trials. Three of those trials are still in progress. Methods of administration are as follows:

  • Gene-mediated cytotoxic immunotherapy – cells receive cancer-killing genetic information
  • Adoptive transfer of intrapleural CAR T- cell therapy – mesothelioma tumors are attacked by modified T-cells
  • Oncolytic virus therapy – a virus is administered to boost immune response
  • Direct cytokine-mediated immunotherapies – rapid immune system signaling to communicate and target a response
  • Innate immunomodulators – drugs that control the immune system

Results from the data revealed that the therapies have showen a lot of promise generating durable tumor-specific responses. As to which method is the most successful, scientists and researchers do not have definitive results, but explain that each method warrants a closer look.


Murthy, V et. al. “Intrapleural Immunotherapy: An Update on Emerging Treatment Strategies for Pleural Malignancy,” Clinical Respiratory Journal (February 27, 2019). [Link]

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