There is hopeful news on the research front for people struggling with malignant pleural mesothelioma and their families. Although mesothelioma is still considered one of the deadliest cancers, new and emerging therapies are helping more patients live longer than ever before.
For decades, the multi-modality approach to mesothelioma treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, has been the gold standard for this intractable cancer of the lung lining. But newer therapies, some of which are still in the preclinical stages of development, promise to take mesothelioma treatment to new levels.
A new article published by top mesothelioma researcher Robert Cameron and colleagues at UCLA summarizes some of the newest and most encouraging experimental mesothelioma treatments. The report in Cancer Management and Research includes both systemic treatments, which treat the whole body in order to destroy the cancer, and localized treatments which target mesothelioma tumors.
Among the new therapies highlighted in the article are:
Mesothelin specific antibody and toxin therapies – Therapies designed to deliver cytotoxic drugs directly to mesothelioma cells by targeting the protein mesothelin which is expressed by many cancer cells
Interleukin-4 receptor toxins – Another toxin that targets a receptor on the surface of cancer cells
Dendritic cell vaccines – A therapy that involves harvesting monocytes (white blood cells), processing them in a lab to produce more of them, and then giving them back to the patient in order to strengthen the body’s own ability to fight mesothelioma
Immune checkpoint inhibitors – Drugs (such as tremelimumab) designed to inhibit the immune system’s tolerance to tumors. It has shown success as a second-line treatment for advanced mesothelioma
Gene-based therapies – Treatments that replace missing or defective genes in order to attack mesothelioma at the molecular level and eliminate the need for drugs, radiation or surgery
Photodynamic therapy – Light-based therapy that destroys mesothelioma cells which have been treated with a drug designed to make them light-sensitive
Betadine lavage – An experimental treatment that aims to keep mesothelioma from growing back after surgery by treating the area with a mixture of povidone and iodine normally used to prevent infection
Cryotherapy – A system for destroying recurrent mesothelioma tumors by freezing the tissue with a special instrument
Mesothelioma is the most lethal of a range of diseases that are caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. As many as 3,000 Americans die of mesothelioma each year.
Kotova, S et al, “New and emerging therapeutic options for malignant pleural mesothelioma: review of early clinical trials”, January 23, 2015, Cancer Management Resources, pp. 51-63.