Phase 2 Immunotherapy Trial Beginning for Mesothelioma Patients

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Doctor Working In A Lab

A new clinical trial happening at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas may benefit veterans with pleural mesothelioma. This trial will look at an immunotherapy combo for pleural mesothelioma in patients who have stopped responding to other standard treatments.

Baylor College of Medicine announced they’re recruiting 12 patients to participate in a phase 2 trial of a new combination immunotherapy drug. To be eligible, these patients must have undergone chemotherapy before that didn’t work or stopped working.

The hope for this new trial is to find a pleural mesothelioma treatment that works when the current standard of care fails.

Study Testing Immunotherapy Drug Combo

This trial will study the use of two immunotherapy drugs, MTG201 and Nivolumab (Opdivo), to see if the combination will cause tumors to stop growing or even shrink.

In this phase 2 trial, the Baylor researchers will test several safety and effectiveness factors:

  • How safe the combination is
  • How severe those side effects may be
  • What percent of the patients respond to the treatment
  • What side effects the patients may experience

Nivolumab has shown great promise in previous clinical trials, but it’s not effective on its own. Now researchers are trying to find the perfect combination.

Dr. Bryan Burt, a principal investigator of this study and associate professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, has been studying the effects of MTG201 and Nivolumab for a while. His preclinical trials have demonstrated that these two drugs have the potential to eliminate pleural mesothelioma cells. He hopes the clinical trials will have the same results.

Drug Combo Intended for Unresponsive Patients

Many doctors agree that mesothelioma treatment effectiveness has plateaued.

While the overall outcomes have improved, many patients still do not respond to the current standard therapy — the chemotherapy drug combination of Alimta (pemetrexed) and cisplatin. This is why researchers are heavily focused on finding alternative options.

Immunotherapy is a promising option for patients who no longer respond to chemotherapy. With immunotherapy, the body's defense mechanisms are enhanced to fight the cancer cells.

Mesothelioma can spread throughout a body for a few different reasons:

  • It may avoid detection by the body, so the immune system won't activate and try to destroy the cancer cells
  • It may spread faster than the body can keep up with
  • The immune system may be too weak to fight off the mesothelioma cells

Immunotherapy can counter these effects by activating the immune system.


Nivolumab helps the patient's body recognize the cancer cells as harmful. It is a checkpoint inhibitor that targets programmed death-1 (PD-1) receptors.

Mesothelioma cells send out PD-1 receptors to prevent white blood cells from seeking them out to kill them. By blocking the PD-1 receptors, Nivolumab help the immune system recognize there is a threat.


MTG201 works in a slightly different way than Nivolumab. This drug seeks out cancer cells and kills them.

When the tumor cells die, they release a substance that helps the body's immune system target other cancerous cells. Researchers are testing whether or not MTG201 can work with Nivolumab to enhance its effectiveness.

Each Mesothelioma Case Is Different

Because every patient with mesothelioma is unique, so is their disease. Since each case is different, treatment needs to be highly personalized.

That is why trials like this one are critical. Immunotherapy clinical trials can help doctors determine which patients will benefit from this treatment. The more doctors can learn about how these treatments work, the better they can tailor treatment plans to a specific person.

Help for Mesothelioma Victims

Doctors are working tirelessly to find treatment combinations that can extend patient survival. If you are a veteran who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it’s critical to work with a specialist who can tailor a treatment plan to your unique case.

Veterans can access top doctors and therapies through the VA, with VA benefits and the VA health care system. Contact the Mesothelioma Veterans Center to learn more about your eligibility for VA benefits.

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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