Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors to Treat Mesothelioma

Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors to Treat Mesothelioma

A new study supports the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma.

The study authors caution that immune checkpoint inhibitors should be used carefully because they can be an expensive treatment.

Immunotherapy for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. It develops from cells of the mesothelium, the lining that covers many of the internal organs of the body. There are approximately 2,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in the United States every year.

Since mesothelioma is so rare, standard treatment options are limited. Standard therapies include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. If more than one of these therapies is used, it may be called multimodal therapy.

Immunotherapy has emerged in the last decade as a new treatment option. It is also referred to as biological therapy. It uses the patient’s immune system to treat mesothelioma. Immunotherapy treatment options include vaccine therapy, as well as a treatment that involves an immune cytokine.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a form of immunotherapy. One of the reasons mesothelioma tumors can grow out of control is their ability to trick the immune system.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors block mesothelioma’s built-in resistance to immune system attack. They are among the most promising approaches to combating this aggressive cancer. Many studies have been conducted over the last few years to explore this treatment option.

Treatment Response

Italian researchers recently reviewed existing studies on malignant pleural mesothelioma and immune checkpoint inhibitors. The study looked at 17 trials that included a total of over 2,000 patients.

The researchers found that treatments with more than one immune checkpoint inhibitor worked better than treatments with a single immune checkpoint inhibitor. The combined treatment also had a higher rate of negative side effects.

Even though immune checkpoint inhibitors can be effective, it really depends on the patient in question. Not every patient will benefit from this therapy, and it could be costly. The researchers called this “financial toxicity”. They recommend using immune checkpoint inhibitors as a second-line treatment, only if the standard therapies do not work.


Gemelli M, Cortinovis DL, Baggi A, et al. Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Cancers (Basel). 2022;14(24):6063. Published 2022 Dec 9. doi:10.3390/cancers14246063. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9775536/

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