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New Immunotherapy Drug Works Synergistically to Fight Malignant Mesothelioma

19103717_Immune SystemThe creators of a new kind of cancer drug based on an altered cold virus say it appears to work synergistically with standard chemotherapy to combat malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Malignant mesothelioma affects an estimated 2,500 people in the US each year and tens of thousands more around the world. It is caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos.

Although chemotherapy with pemetrexed (Alimta) and a platinum drug like cisplatin or carboplatin is the primary first-line treatment for mesothelioma, only a small percentage of mesothelioma patients respond to this approach.

But researchers with an Oslo, Norway-based company have developed an adenovirus-based drug that may prolong mesothelioma survival by boosting the effectiveness of standard chemotherapy.

A New Kind of Cancer Drug

ONCOS-102 is made from an altered human adenovirus, a class of viruses that cause most human respiratory illnesses. It is specially made to seek out and enter mesothelioma cells and other types of cancer cells.

Once inside a mesothelioma cell, ONCOS-102 can replicate itself, sending a genetic signal that stimulates an anti-cancer immune response. ONCOS-102 has been altered so that it is only capable of replicating inside cancer cells and cannot do so in normal cells.

Synergistic Mesothelioma Treatment

An earlier study showed that ONCOS-102 was able to safely stimulate an anti-cancer immune response. The current preclinical trial, measuring its effect in live animals, is the next step in the testing process.

Mice infected with human malignant mesothelioma tumors were treated with a combination of ONCOS-102 and standard pemetrexed-based chemotherapy. Although chemotherapy alone had no anti-tumor activity in the mice, the combination treatment was able to significantly slow down the growth of mesothelioma tumors.

These findings give a rationale for the clinical testing of ONCOS-102 in combination with first-line chemotherapy in patients suffering from malignant mesothelioma,” concludes study author Lukasz Kuryk in a summary of the findings in the International Journal of CancerKuryk is a researcher with Targovax, the Norwegian biotechnology company that has owned ONCOS-102 since 2015.

Immunotherapy in Mesothelioma Therapy

Drugs that harness the power of the patient’s own immune system to fight their mesothelioma are categorized as immunotherapy.

Because the asbestos cancer is highly resistant to all types of standard treatment, the study of immunotherapeutic agents like ONCOS-102 has become a major focus for mesothelioma researchers around the world.

Surviving Mesothelioma will continue to follow the progress of this potential mesothelioma drug when and if it moves into clinical trials.


Kuryk, L, “Synergistic anti-tumor efficacy of immunogenic adenovirus ONCOS-102 (Ad5/3-D24-GM-CSF) and standard of care chemotherapy in preclinical mesothelioma model”, June 10, 2016, International Journal of Cancer, Epub ahead of print

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