A Step Forward in Treating Pleural Mesothelioma: The Pembrolizumab and Lenvatinib Combination

A Step Forward in Treating Pleural Mesothelioma: The Pembrolizumab and Lenvatinib Combination

Pleural mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that has been challenging to treat effectively. However, recent breakthroughs in medical research are shedding new light on potential treatment options. Researchers investigated the potential of a combination therapy involving pembrolizumab and lenvatinib.

Their findings were promising, with over 50% of patients experiencing tumor shrinkage. While this marks an important step forward, challenges such as side effects need to be carefully addressed in future research.

Uncovering Hope for Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs. It’s linked to exposure to a harmful substance called asbestos. Asbestos used to be used a lot in construction and other industries. Finding good treatments for this type of cancer is crucial in improving the lives of those affected.

Recently, scientists have been exploring new ways to treat pleural mesothelioma. One promising approach involves combining two drugs: pembrolizumab and lenvatinib. Studies in both laboratories and in real patients have shown that this combination works well at shrinking cancer tumors.

A group of researchers conducted a study on this combination at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. They focused on patients who tried platinum and pemetrexed but their cancer had continued to progress. These patients were generally in good health and able to carry out normal activities.

Pembrolizumab and Lenvatinib

In this study, 38 patients were selected based on specific criteria. They were then given pembrolizumab through an IV line every 3 weeks and lenvatinib by mouth once a day. This went on for up to 2 years, or until their cancer got worse, or they experienced severe side effects. The researchers closely monitored the patients to track their progress.

At the time of the analysis in January 2023, the researchers found some promising outcomes. Out of the 38 patients, over half showed signs of shrinking tumors. Another analysis showed a positive response in 45% of the patients. These results are a hopeful sign that the combination therapy could be effective in treating pleural mesothelioma.

However, it’s important to note that while the treatment showed promise, it also came with some side effects. Ten patients experienced serious side effects related to the treatment. The most common severe side effects included high blood pressure, loss of appetite, and low white blood cell levels.

This study marks an important step forward in finding better treatments for pleural mesothelioma. The combination of pembrolizumab and lenvatinib shows great potential, but it also comes with challenges. Further research is needed to fine-tune the dosage and to provide the high level of care and support necessary for this treatment.


Douma LH, Lalezari F, van der Noort V, et al. Pembrolizumab plus lenvatinib in second-line and third-line patients with pleural mesothelioma (PEMMELA): a single-arm phase 2 study [published online ahead of print, 2023 Oct 13]. Lancet Oncol. 2023;S1470-2045(23)00446-1. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(23)00446-1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37844598/

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