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Power-Packed Combination Treatment May Boost Mesothelioma Outcomes

168295_injection1There is evidence that a new kind of combination therapy could improve survival odds for people with unresectable malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the Perelman School of Medicine, the University of Maryland, and NYU School of Medicine treated forty mesothelioma patients with immuno-gene therapy before administering standard chemotherapy.

The results were a “significantly higher” mesothelioma survival rate than most patients are told to expect.

Mesothelioma Chemotherapy: Limited Effectiveness

Although most mesothelioma patients end up having chemotherapy at some point during their treatment, the odds are not good that the treatment will have much impact on the length of their lives.

This is because malignant pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the lung membranes caused by asbestos exposure, is notoriously resistant to standard treatments, including the most popular mesothelioma drugs.

While experimental mesothelioma therapies that involve manipulating the genes or the immune system have produced some promising results in clinical trials, they are not a cure for mesothelioma either.

Multi-Faceted Mesothelioma Treatment

But the latest study does not rely solely on a new chemotherapy or immunotherapy drug or on gene therapy. Instead, researchers combined all three types of approaches to produce a mesothelioma treatment they say is not only powerful but safe.

All of the study participants had unresectable pleural mesothelioma. Some had never had any chemotherapy and some were having chemotherapy for the second time.

Patients received two intrapleural doses of the human interferon-alpha2b gene via a virus that had been altered to serve as a carrier or “vector”. That was followed by a two-week course of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib (Celebrex). Finally, patients had chemotherapy with either pemetrexed or gemcitabine.

“Overall survival rate was significantly higher than historical controls in the second-line group,” states the report.

What’s Next?

The new study proved that this novel approach to mesothelioma was safe for patients with pleural mesothelioma and suggests that it has the potential to dramatically impact mesothelioma treatment outcomes.

The research team says the next step should be a multi-center randomized clinical trial of this “chemo-immunogene therapy” versus standard chemotherapy alone.

The report appears in Clinical Cancer Research, the official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.


Sterman, DH, et al, “Pilot and feasibility trial of immuno-gene therapy of malignant mesothelioma using intrapleural delivery of adenovirus-interferon-alpha combined with chemotherapy”, March 11, 2016, Clinical Cancer Research, Epub ahead of print

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