Keytruda® Continues Showing Promise as a Mesothelioma Treatment

Illustration of mesothelioma research

Keytruda® is continuing to show promising signs as a treatment for patients with mesothelioma cancer. The antibody drug has been used to treat melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck cancers, and now mesothelioma.

According to a new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Keytruda® can be effective against the most common form of mesothelioma and it’s the first checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy drug to show a clear impact on the deadly disease.

The study’s lead author, Evan Alley, MD, PhD, Chief of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Penn Presbyterian Hospital, says, “There have been lots of studies looking at different drugs, but researchers have not seen positive results.”

Currently, the first-line therapy treatment for mesothelioma is chemotherapy and there is no second-line therapy that’s been approved for use.

“But we’ve found this new class of drugs, checkpoint inhibitors, seems to be more effective than what’s been available in the past,” said Dr. Alley.

The research team is backed by data from an ongoing clinical trial comprised of 13 research sites across six countries. The study involves 25 patients with advanced mesothelioma cases who had been treated with chemotherapy or were unable to receive it. If someone had already been treated with another checkpoint inhibitor, they could not participate.

That study began two years ago, and four patients are still receiving the dose of Keytruda® every two weeks. Most patients were able to go six months without their mesothelioma getting any worse. Fourteen patients’ tumors decreased in size. The survival rate was 18 months, which is much longer than the average for people diagnosed with mesothelioma.

“Most patients who receive a second-line therapy have a life expectancy of about six or seven months, so to have four patients still ongoing at two years is very encouraging,” stated Dr. Alley.

Alley added, “One great sign in this study is that none of the patients had to stop treatment because of side-effects. Some had temporary stoppages, but they were able to continue. The drug appears to be well-tolerated.”

Before Keytruda® can be approved for use as a second-line therapy, other studies must be conducted and produce similar results. Some trials are set to test Keytruda® when used with other treatments. This will occur later in 2017.