Within the past year, there has been a significant increase in the number of therapeutic clinical trials for mesothelioma cancer. Many of these trials have focused on developing or improving immunotherapy treatments that enhance the body’s natural cancer-fighting capabilities through the immune system.
For example, several immunotherapy basket trials focusing on PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors have produced response rates between 9% and 28%, with disease control rates resulted anywhere from 50% to 77% in mesothelioma patients. These trials have also shown checkpoint inhibitors to be more active in PD-L1 IHC positive patients.
Clinical trials test new mesothelioma treatments, as well as new ways to use existing treatments. For patients who do not respond well to conventional therapies, these trials offer the best opportunity for long-term survival with mesothelioma. The use of experimental drugs begins with in-depth studies that can significantly improve life expectancy and quality of life.
Some recent successes with immunotherapy drugs include Keytruda® (pembrolizumab) and Avastin® (bevacizumab), but other experimental treatments like gene therapy, photodynamic therapy, and multimodality therapy are also being studied.
Most clinical trial expenses are covered by the sponsoring entity. This might include a government agency, hospital, university hospital, or a pharmaceutical company. They are typically conducted at a cancer clinic or a specialized area of a hospital that treats cancer patients. Patients may still need to pay for transportation, trips to the doctor, and various tests.
Before a treatment receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it must undergo at least three separate phases of clinical trials, with a possible fourth phase following approval. These phases occur after a treatment has been tested in laboratory and animal studies. The trials intend to show a drug is both effective and safe for human use.
Researchers like Dr. Anne Tsao agree we still need to explore the biology and develop combination therapies. Dr. Tsao is the director of the mesothelioma program at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on malignant mesothelioma.
Other clinical trials are testing immunotherapy in combination with surgery as a more effective way to treat mesothelioma. The Baylor College of Medicine Mesothelioma Treatment Center began running the trial this year. Up until now, either immunotherapy has always been administered as a standalone treatment or, more often, after surgery takes place.