Immunotherapy/Chemotherapy Combination May Hold Key to Mesothelioma Treatment

Mesothelioma and other hard-to-treat cancers have proven resistant to nearly every treatment that scientists have devised. But a new vaccine being developed by researchers at Harvard may hold the key to longer survival times by combining the best of two different treatments: chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Vaccine Approach May Supercede Traditional Mesothelioma Protocols

Most mesothelioma patients are treated with chemotherapy, with some also receiving radiation therapy and surgery in a multi-modality protocol. Those treatments have been used for the last several years, while in the last year an immunotherapy protocol received FDA approval for treatment of the rare, asbestos-related form of cancer. But researchers at Harvard are working towards a treatment that eliminates chemotherapy’s adverse effects and combines its strengths with those of immunotherapy in a single treatment.

Chemotherapy works on mesothelioma and other hard-to-treat cancers by attacking cells that divide rapidly, but they have the unfortunate side effect of also impacting healthy cells and causing significant side effects that lower quality of life. Immunotherapy works well but can take some time because it involves a sophisticated process that replicates and enhances the patient’s own immune processes. The approach that researchers at Harvard are developing is universal and has the advantage of being applied directly to cancerous cells without the need for individual patient customization.

Killing Mesothelioma Cells While Generating a Greater Immune Response

The new approach allows the chemotherapy drug to kill cells within a mesothelioma tumor while at the same time triggering a response that activates the patient’s own immune system and draws immune cells to the site of the dying cancer cells. In testing the protocol on patients with another challenging form of cancer — triple negative breast cancer — the team found it extremely effective.

According to Don Ingber, MD, PhD, a professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School, “The team’s newest version of their cancer vaccine is a novel multifunctional anticancer therapy that offers new hope for the treatment of a wide range of cancers. It is essentially an entirely new form of combination chemotherapy that can be administered through a single injection and potentially offer greater efficacy with much lower toxicity than conventional treatments used today.” They hope that it will also teach the immune system to look for the specific invasive cell in the future in order to battle relapses.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and you would like more information on innovative approaches like this one, contact the Patient Advocates at today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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