Mesothelioma Treatment Roundup: Summer 2021

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Researchers continue to evaluate the latest treatment options in the fight against mesothelioma. Recent studies explore the role of immunotherapies and cancer vaccines in treating mesothelioma. Chemotherapy also remains an important option for patients, but new medications may provide additional benefits.

What Are the Latest Treatments for Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma patients have seen promising new treatment options through clinical trials and research reports this summer.

Immunotherapy drugs are at the forefront of these trials. Immunotherapy trains the body to better identify and destroy cancer cells. Several immunotherapy drugs received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat mesothelioma in 2020, but more are still being studied.

In one study, immunotherapy was combined with chemotherapy to help those suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma. Another study also evaluated how immunotherapy can help as a follow-up pleural mesothelioma treatment.

Further, other researchers found that a cancer vaccine combined with immunotherapy may slow the return of cancer tumors (recurrence). Finally, a chemotherapy drug called Vinorelbine was studied for its abilities in slowing the spread of cancer.

These studies provide insight on treatment advancements that may help civilians and veterans with mesothelioma live longer or with less pain. Read more about the latest treatments for mesothelioma below.

1. Immunotherapy and Chemotherapy Combo Shows Promise for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

The immunotherapy drug atezolizumab has been tested in combination with a chemotherapy drug called bevacizumab to treat malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, according to a July 2021 study published in the journal Cancer Discovery.

In the study, patients received a fixed dose of atezolizumab in combination with bevacizumab every 21 days until the cancer started to spread or the side effects became too great.

Ultimately, patients showed a strong response to the combination treatment, including those who had previously not had a promising response to chemotherapy alone.

On average, patients lived for nearly 18 months without the cancer progressing. Overall, 85% of the patients in the study were still alive after 1 year.

2. Immunotherapy May Help as Second-Line Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment

Research published in the medical journal Lung Cancer found that certain immunotherapy drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) acted as a good second-line therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Second-line therapies can be given after a patient stops responding to initially effective treatments. ICIs allow special cells in the body called T cells to find and destroy cancerous cells.

The study compared the effects of ICIs and chemotherapy as second-line treatments. The researchers looked at 176 pleural mesothelioma patients in total. 115 patients received ICI treatment and 61 patients received chemotherapy.

Overall, patients survived much longer if they received ICIs rather than chemotherapy.

Patients in the ICI group lived for almost 9 months on average, while those in the chemotherapy group lived for just 5 months. The estimated 12-month overall survival rate was 36.7% and 15.6%, respectively.

While further research is needed, these findings show that ICIs may be helpful to pleural mesothelioma patients as a second-line therapy.

3. Encouraging Results from Cancer Vaccine and Immunotherapy Study

A report released in late June 2021 from SELLAS Life Sciences Group noted how two immunotherapies — a cancer vaccine called galinpepimut-S (GPS) and Opdivo (nivolumab) — could work together to help patients live longer.

According to the study, patients who received the treatment for 1 month or more survived for over 35 weeks — almost a full year’s time.

Further, this treatment combination didn’t have any more side effects than if Opdivo was just used by itself. The main symptom was a mild reaction at the skin where the GPS vaccine was injected.

4. Vinorelbine Helps Slow Cancer Spread

According to a study, the chemotherapy medication vinorelbine contributed to progression-free survival rates when combined with supportive care among patients with pleural mesothelioma that has relapsed, or returned after being in remission.

The results from this study showed the median overall survival was 9.3 months for the vinorelbine group, compared to 9.1 months for those treated with only supportive care.

The median progression-free survival rate for vinorelbine was 4.2 months compared to 2.8 months for the group treated with only supportive care.

In the vinorelbine group, 62.2% of patients did not experience their condition worsen, compared to 46.4% for patients treated with supportive care alone. The vinorelbine group showed a median duration of treatment response of 7.2 months, compared to 4.2 months for the supportive care group.

New Mesothelioma Treatments Are Key to a Cure

New mesothelioma treatments are being tested to help discover a cure. By evaluating how the latest treatment options help mesothelioma patients, scientists can identify therapies that deliver better results.

The above studies show how new medications and other treatments can help patients live longer when compared to well-established therapies.

Those living with mesothelioma may have access to breakthrough treatments by enrolling in clinical trials. If you are a veteran with mesothelioma, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System may be able to help you join a clinical trial.

You can also reach out to your doctor to see if any current trials are available to you. Get a free veterans packet to learn more.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

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