Immune Checkpoint Therapy for Mesothelioma

Immune Checkpoint Therapy for Mesothelioma

A new study suggests that immune checkpoint therapy with nivolumab is a promising treatment for a specific type of mesothelioma.

The study authors describe three cases of sarcomatoid mesothelioma being treated with nivolumab at Kyoto University Hospital in Japan.

A Deadly Form of Mesothelioma

There are three types of malignant pleural mesothelioma. They each respond differently to mesothelioma treatments. One of these types is sarcomatoid mesothelioma and it is the rarest type of mesothelioma.

Sarcomatoid pleural mesothelioma cells are slender ovals with large or even multiple nuclei. Because these cells are spindle-shaped, this type of mesothelioma is sometimes called spindle-cell mesothelioma.

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is an especially deadly form of the disease. This type grows and spreads faster than the other types of mesothelioma. It is also harder to diagnose and more resistant to standard mesothelioma chemotherapy.

Nivolumab is an immune checkpoint inhibitor. It works by blocking a protein that stops the immune system from fighting cancer cells. It helps the immune system find and destroy cancer cells.

Successful Treatment with Nivolumab

The study describes the treatment of three different patients with sarcomatoid mesothelioma. Each patient was an elderly male over 60 years of age. They each arrived at the hospital with a buildup of fluids in the lungs and chest cavity.

In each case, the initial treatment of chemotherapy did not improve the patient’s condition. The three patients were then treated with nivolumab. The nivolumab treatment did help to stabilize each patient during their first visit to the hospital.

A similar case was published in a 2020 study that also took place in Japan. The 78-year-old male patient arrived at the hospital with sarcomatoid mesothelioma. He did not respond well to the initial chemotherapy treatment. However, he did improve after he was finally given nivolumab.

More studies on using nivolumab as a treatment for sarcomatoid mesothelioma are needed.


Hashimoto K, Ozasa H, Yoshizawa A, Yoshida H, Ogimoto T, Hosoya K, Yamazoe M, Ajimizu H, Funazo T, Yoshida H, Sakamori Y, Hirai T. Sarcomatoid malignant pleural mesothelioma treated with nivolumab: A case series. Oncol Lett. 2022 Sep 22;24(5):402. doi: 10.3892/ol.2022.13522. PMID: 36276492; PMCID: PMC9533663.

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