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Lymphoma Drug May Fight Mesothelioma, Too

18891_Antibody2A drug granted accelerated FDA approval for the treatment of lymphomas appears to kill some types mesothelioma cells, too.

Cancer researchers at Case Western Reserve University and Case Medical Center have just released some encouraging findings on the drug called brentuximab vedotin.

Sold under the brand name Adcetris, brentuximab vedotin targets CD30, a protein that acts as a regulator of programmed cell death (apoptosis) by interacting with smaller proteins called cytokines. Certain cancers, including Hodgkin’s disease and anaplastic large cell lymphoma, have been found to overexpress CD30, making it easier for tumors to grow.

Based on the success of brentuximab vedotin in lymphoma trials, and given the relatively low success rate of most standard mesothelioma treatments, the team elected to test the drug as a new option for mesothelioma. They started by testing for CD30 expression in 83 mesothelioma tumor specimens. Thirteen of the specimens, primarily those of the epithelioid subtype, were found to express CD30. These mesothelioma cells were then exposed to brentuximab vedotin.

“Brentuximab vedotin treatment of cultured mesothelioma cells produced a dose-dependent decrease in cell growth and viability at clinically relevant concentrations,” the authors report in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. The findings prompted them to conclude that certain carefully-selected mesothelioma patients might benefit from this treatment.

Brentuximab vedotin is an antibody-drug conjugate, meaning that it combines an antibody to target CD30 with a cytotoxic (anticancer) compound. Combining the targeting agent with the cancer-killing drug gives antibody-drug conjugates the ability to distinguish between healthy and diseased cells in the body, which can help minimize side effects. The drug has not yet been formally tested in mesothelioma patients.


Dabir, S et al, “CD30 is a potential therapeutic target in malignant mesothelioma”, January 14, 2015, Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, Epub ahead of print

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