Cancer researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have launched a new mesothelioma immunotherapy trial. The trial combines the cancer drug Opdivo (nivolumab) with injections of a modified virus called MTG201.
Baylor scientists are hoping to recruit 12 pleural mesothelioma patients whose cancer has come back after chemotherapy.
The treatment combination appeared to work well in mice with mesothelioma. If it works as well in people, this new mesothelioma immunotherapy trial could change the outlook for many people with malignant mesothelioma.
How the New Mesothelioma Immunotherapy Trial Will Work
Opdivo is the brand name for nivolumab. It blocks a protein called PD-1 in cancer cells. PD-1 is one of the ways that mesothelioma cells evade the immune system. Opdivo is often used to treat lung cancer.
Opdivo was once considered a “rising star” treatment for mesothelioma, too. But a mesothelioma immunotherapy trial showed that it did not work well by itself.
The idea behind the new trial is that MTG201 may make Opdivo more effective against pleural mesothelioma.
MGT201 is made out of a modified adenovirus. It targets and kills cancer cells. Baylor researchers say the dying cells release tumor antigens, which helps the immunotherapy drug find them. The antigens also draw immune system cells to the tumor.
In the new mesothelioma immunotherapy trial, patients receive four injections of MTG201 directly into the tumor. Then they will undergo infusions of Opdivo once a month. The approach was very successful in lab animals.
“This therapy eradicates mouse mesothelioma tumors, rapidly and consistently in an aggressive mouse model of mesothelioma,” says Dr. Bryan Burt, principal investigator of this study and associate professor of surgery at Baylor.
How is the New Treatment DIfferent?
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is one of the most aggressive types of cancer. Many people who are diagnosed with this type of cancer do not survive more than 18 months after diagnosis.
Unless they are involved in a mesothelioma immunotherapy trial, patients usually receive a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. But these treatments are only moderately effective.
The new drug combination is unlikely to be a cure for mesothelioma. But researchers say it may be an additional treatment option for patients who do not respond to standard therapy.
“I suspect that an array of therapeutic options will be necessary to provide effective therapies for all patients,” says Robert Taylor Ripley, director of the Mesothelioma Treatment Center at Baylor.
He says a mesothelioma immunotherapy trial like this one will help define which patients are most likely to benefit from this new approach. It will also help keep doctors from wasting time on a mesothelioma treatment that is unlikely to work for their patient.
Click here for detailed information about the new study.
Chu, Molly, “Clinical trial uses immunotherapy to treat mesothelioma”, July 23, 2019, Baylor College of Medicine website, https://www.bcm.edu/news/cancer/clinical-trial-immunotherapy-mesothelioma
Inacio, P, “Upcoming Phase 2 Trial Will Test Opdivo-MTG201 Combo for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma”, August 9, 2019, Immuno-Oncology News, https://immuno-oncologynews.com/2019/08/09/upcoming-phase-2-trial-will-test-opdivo-mtg201-combo-refractory-malignant-pleural-mesothelioma/