The trial being conducted at Baylor’s Mesothelioma Treatment Center and Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center is the first-in-human mesothelioma clinical trial in which an immunotherapy drug will be given prior to surgery.
Combining Immunotherapy and Surgery
Like other types of cancer, mesothelioma tumors produce compounds that enable them to effectively “hide” from the immune system.
Immunotherapy is a mesothelioma treatment approach aimed at inhibiting the function of those compounds so that the body’s immune system recognizes and fights the cancer instead of ignoring it.
Dr. Bryan Burt, assistant professor of surgery at Baylor and the principal investigator on the new immunotherapy/surgery trial says malignant mesothelioma may be more susceptible to this kind of therapy than originally thought.
“I predict that immunotherapy will rise to become a critical component of multimodality therapy for mesothelioma patients,” Dr. Burt said in a Balor news release earlier this week.
Two Immunotherapy Drugs
The Baylor trial will test two different immunotherapy drugs for mesothelioma, one by itself and the two in combination. MEDI4736 (durvalumab) and tremelimumab were used together to treat patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer in a Columbia University trial in 2014.
Pleural mesothelioma patients who participate in the new study will receive immunotherapy to reactivate their immune system followed by advanced surgery to remove as much of the visible mesothelioma tumor as possible.
Baylor doctors anticipate that, if any mesothelioma tumors do try to take hold again after surgery, the immune system will remain primed to fight them.
Multimodality Approach for Mesothelioma
Using a combination of different types of therapy – such as immunotherapy and surgery – to treat mesothelioma is known as a multimodality approach.
Because malignant pleural mesothelioma is highly resistant to cancer therapy, most patients will undergo multimodality treatment which has been shown to produce the best mesothelioma outcomes for the 2,500+ mesothelioma victims diagnosed in the US each year.
Benson, Dana, “Mesothelioma Treatment Center at Baylor St. Luke’s launches Clinical Trial for cancer patients”, September 6, 2016, News Release, Baylor College of Medicine website
Rizvi, N, et al, “Tumor response from durvalumab (MEDI4736) + tremelimumab treatment in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is observed regardless of PD-L1 status”, November 4, 2015, Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer