Mesothelioma Clinical Trials

Quick Summary

Mesothelioma is a rare and incurable cancer that often does not respond to standard cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Clinical trials performed by mesothelioma cancer specialists aim to improve mesothelioma treatment. Mesothelioma clinical trials can lead to better quality of life and longer life after diagnosis. They may also lead to a cure for mesothelioma or other types of cancer.

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What Are Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma?

Doctor looking at cells under a microscope

Clinical trials are heavily controlled studies that are performed on human test subjects. The purpose of clinical trials is to find new treatment options or improve upon currently available treatments.

Many of the treatment options which currently exist for diseases like lung cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer were first discovered and tested through clinical trials.

Mesothelioma clinical trials work to improve current treatment options and discover new treatment options for people who are afflicted with this aggressive and fatal type of cancer.

Current mesothelioma clinical trials are geared toward better treatment for both malignant pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma.

How Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma Work

Enrolling in a mesothelioma clinical trial may seem scary or intimidating at first.

Understanding how clinical trials for mesothelioma work can make the process less daunting and help new patients feel more comfortable and secure in the process.

Length of Time to Complete a Clinical Trial

Every clinical trial is different from the next. However, most clinical trials take around 7 to 10 years to pass through all phases and reach completion and approval by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Phases of Clinical Trials

Every clinical trial begins with what is called a preclinical trial. During this stage, the treatment is first tested in labs and on animals to ensure it is safe for human testing.

The phases of a clinical trial are as follows:

  • Phase 0 involves small studies performed on about 10-15 individuals. These studies help determine whether further testing is appropriate.
  • Phase I continues with a small group of people as test subjects and focuses on determining safe dosage amounts and observing side effects. A phase I study is usually divided into multiple groups that are given different size dosage amounts.
  • Phase II involves a larger group of test subjects, usually under 100 people. This phase focuses on the overall effectiveness of the drug.
  • Phase III splits the test subjects into two groups: one that receives the new drug that is being studied, and one that receives a placebo. Patients are placed in each group randomly and are unaware of which group they are in.
  • Phase IV clinical studies occur after a drug has already received FDA approval. These studies focus on the long-term benefits and risks of a new drug after it has already hit the public market.

Main Mesothelioma Treatments in Clinical Trials

The primary type of mesothelioma treatment that is currently being studied in clinical trials is immunotherapy, which is considered a first-line type of treatment for many cancers.

Other treatments being studied include gene therapy, cell therapy (CAR T-Cell therapy), and photodynamic therapy (PDT).

Number of Mesothelioma Clinical Trials

As of January 2023, ClinicalTrials.gov, a national database for the U.S. National Library of Medicine, lists 125 mesothelioma clinical trials that are currently in the stage of active recruitment.

Benefits of Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma Patients

Participating in clinical trials for mesothelioma treatments can provide many benefits for both the person undergoing treatment and the greater mesothelioma community as a whole.

Benefits of mesothelioma clinical trials include:

  • Provide alternatives for mesothelioma patients who didn’t respond well to standard treatments
  • May be used for people who are not good candidates for standard treatments
  • Can provide additional treatment for people who have had a recurrence of mesothelioma after a previous period of remission
  • May be more affordable for people who cannot cover the costs of standard treatments
  • Allow for access to top oncologists and cutting-edge cancer research
  • Can help improve or prolong the lives of both current and future mesothelioma patients

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How Will Clinical Trials Affect the Mesothelioma Prognosis?

Mesothelioma almost always comes with a poor prognosis. Clinical trials are working to change this and improve the mesothelioma prognosis for current and future patients.

Testing New Treatment Options

Many mesothelioma clinical trials involve testing new and innovative medications for their safety and effectiveness.

Mesothelioma treatment options currently being studied in clinical trials include:

  • Gene therapy attempts to make cancer cells easier to identify and destroy by adding genes to them.
  • Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that works by utilizing a person’s existing immune system and making it stronger and more effective when attacking cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy works by targeting specific proteins found within cancer cells. One of the main goals of this type of treatment is to avoid harming healthy cells.

Testing Current Mesothelioma Treatments

Other mesothelioma clinical trials work by testing current mesothelioma treatments to make them more effective. This is sometimes done in unison with standard treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Current mesothelioma medications in clinical trials include the chemotherapy medications cisplatin, pemetrexed, and carboplatin and the monoclonal antibody medication durvalumab.

Improving the Medical Community

Clinical trials are absolutely essential for improving both the field of oncology and the medical community as a whole.

Mesothelioma is still considered a rare and relatively new form of cancer, and the current body of mesothelioma research is somewhat limited.

Clinical trials can not only benefit current and future mesothelioma patients but can expand upon the general body of knowledge provided.

Different Types of Mesothelioma Clinical Trials

Clinical trials for mesothelioma are generally found in four specific areas: prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and symptom management. 

An individual’s eligibility for the different types of mesothelioma clinical trials will depend greatly on which stage of the disease they are in.

Preventing Mesothelioma

Some clinical trials aim to prevent the development of mesothelioma in people who may be at risk because of asbestos exposure in their jobs or from their military experience.

These types of clinical studies often focus on developing preventative mesothelioma vaccines.

Improving the Mesothelioma Diagnosis

These types of mesothelioma clinical trials work to improve how mesothelioma is detected and identified in patients who have already begun to experience symptoms.

Mesothelioma is currently considered a type of cancer that is difficult to diagnose.

Finding better detection methods for early diagnosis can potentially change how the disease is addressed and treated in the future.

Increasing Mesothelioma Survival Rate

Most current clinical trials for mesothelioma focus on improving current treatment methods or expanding upon current treatment methods, to help increase the rate of survival for mesothelioma patients.

Did you know?

According to the American Cancer Society, the current five-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma patients is only around 10%.

Mesothelioma Symptom Management

Other types of clinical studies aim to improve the quality of life for people who have already been diagnosed with mesothelioma and who may have been given a poor prognosis.

These treatments often involve pain management for people whose condition has progressed past the point where standard treatments, like surgery, can help.

What Happens During a Mesothelioma Clinical Trial?

an older male patient has a check up with a female doctor

What happens during mesothelioma clinical trials will depend significantly on the type of trial that is being performed and the type of anticancer treatment being studied.

Nearly all clinical trials will involve frequent check-ups and discussions with a medical team to track the progress of the treatment and its effects on the individual.

Before enrolling in any clinical trial for mesothelioma treatment, individuals should ensure they understand precisely what is expected and required of them, and discuss the possible outcomes with their loved ones and family members.

Where Are Mesothelioma Clinical Trials Held?

Clinical trials are often held in large cities, such as New York City, and therefore may require the patient to travel to take part.

Clinical studies generally take place in large venues like hospitals or cancer centers, but can also occur in smaller private clinics or doctors' offices.

Resources for finding mesothelioma clinical trials include:

  • ClinicalTrials.gov
  • The National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • Other cancer center websites

You may also check with your own mesothelioma doctor or medical team to see if they are aware of any local or national trials.

While searching for a mesothelioma clinical trial, it’s important to look for opportunities that are still in active recruitment or enrollment, as some may already be closed to new patients.

Cost of Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma

Because clinical trials are experimental, most are offered at little or no cost to patients.

It is usually the federal government or the company producing the drug that covers the costs of the clinical studies.

Sometimes, if participation in a clinical trial requires travel or lodging, the patient may be responsible for covering these additional costs.

It is not uncommon for a person to apply for clinical research studies because they cannot afford traditional therapies or because their health insurance does not cover traditional treatments.

If you are concerned about the cost of your or a loved one’s treatment, check out various financial support options for mesothelioma treatment.

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Safety and Risks of Clinical Trials

While clinical trials are generally considered safe for mesothelioma patients, this does not mean they are completely without risk.

Potential risks associated with mesothelioma clinical trials may include:

  • Additional or hidden costs, such as travel and lodging
  • Frequent and required follow-up visits
  • Side effects range in severity from mild to serious
  • Inability to utilize other treatments at the same time
  • Time spent without the treatment being effective

Find a Mesothelioma Clinical Trial

If you are looking for a mesothelioma clinical trial to take part in, or you’re ready to explore other treatment options, you can find a range of mesothelioma doctors and cancer centers here.

Contact the Mesothelioma Veterans Center team at (877) 450-8973 or fill out our contact form and we can assist you with mesothelioma resources that suit your current needs and situation.

Veterans Support Team
Mesothelioma Veterans Center PhotoWritten by:

Veterans Support Team

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center editorial team consists of experienced veterans, family members and medical professionals.

  1. National Institutes of Health (NIH): National Institute on Aging. “Clinical Trials: Benefits, Risks, and Safety.” Retrieved January 24, 2023, from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/clinical-trials-benefits-risks-and-safety
  2. National Institutes of Health (NIH): ClinicalTrials.gov. “Find a study.” Retrieved January 25, 2023, from: https://clinicaltrials.gov/
  3. National Library of Medicine: PubMed.gov. “First-line nivolumab plus ipilimumab in unresectable malignant pleural mesothelioma (CheckMate 743): a multicentre, randomized, open-label, phase III trial.” Retrieved January 25, 2023, from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33485464/