Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital believe that they have made a significant breakthrough in the battle against malignant mesothelioma by combining two different immunotherapy drugs that approach cancer from different angles.
One activates an immune response while the other blocks a pathway that helps the rare form of cancer evade the immune system.
Speaking of their discovery, Mark Poznansky, MD, PhD, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center (VIC) and senior author of a report published in the journal Cancer Immunology Research writes,
“Mesothelioma, a tumor that is caused by asbestos exposure has been extremely hard to treat; and patients usually survive only 12 to 18 months after diagnosis. Since the advent of cancer immunotherapy, people have tried to apply immunotherapeutic drugs to mesothelioma with limited success. We are very excited at the prospect that this drug combination may be much more effective in prolonging patients’ lives.”
Mesothelioma has proven to be exceedingly challenging to treat for a number of reasons. In addition to the fact that the disease is generally not diagnosed until it is far advanced within the body, it also has a number of mysterious processes that make it seem resistant to chemotherapy and other drugs that weaken or kill its tumor cells.
This new approach begins with a drug called VIC-008, which combines a protein from tuberculosis with an antibody that specifically targets mesothelin, a protein expressed by mesothelioma tumors, as well as ovarian cancer tumors and pancreatic tumors.
VIC-008 is also known as Jantibody in memory of Jeffrey Gelfand, MD’s late wife Janet, who died of ovarian cancer. The scientists combined Jantibody with AMD3100, a drug that blocks the immune response which would normally cut down tumor formation.
Researchers found that in combining the two, the impact was much stronger than when administered alone. The combination reduced tumor size and prolonged survival in the laboratory animals on which it was tested.
“The apparent ability to change immunosuppressive T cells within the mesothelioma tumor into T cell types that are more active and potentially helpful against cancer was a really exciting, ad one that we’re continuing to investigate,” Dr. Poznansky, an associated professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, explained.
For information on this study, other clinical trials, and the many resources available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608. We are here to help.