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Immunotherapy Continues to Hold Hope for Mesothelioma Patients

There is a standard multimodality treatment protocol that is offered to patients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. It is a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and the nuances of the treatment are largely dependent upon the patient’s condition and type of mesothelioma, the facility at which they are being treated, and the physician’s experience and preference. The combination of these three treatments has slowly yielded improvements in patient prognosis, but still no cure: patients generally die within two years of being diagnosed with the disease. But new studies are pointing to the possibility that Keytruda – the same immunotherapy drug that helped to save former President Jimmy Carter when he was facing cancer – may be just as effective in helping to slow the disease. It might even be more effective.

Recently released results from studies conducted in 13 different sites throughout six different countries of pembrolizumab have shown that mesothelioma patients who were given the medication experienced reduced tumor size and extended overall survival, with a median duration of response of 12 months. These patients had either already been treated with chemotherapy or were unable to receive chemotherapy. Though some of the 25 initial payments died during the course of the study, the researchers from Penn Presbyterian Hospital found their results encouraging.

According to Evan Alley, MD, PhD, the study’s lead author and chief of hematology and medical oncology at Penn Presbyterian, “Most patients who receive a second-line therapy have a life expectancy of six or seven months, so to have four patients still ongoing at 2 years is very encouraging.” Though there were some adverse effects from the treatment, they largely consisted of fatigue and nausea. Alley said, “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.”

Their conclusion at the study’s end was that “pembrolizumab appears to elicit significant clinical activity with durable responses and a manageable safety and toxicity profile in patients with PD-L1 positive malignant pleural mesothelioma, with tolerable safety, an indication of clinical activity, and substantial duration of response.” Alley said, “This study provides evidence that some patients can have long term disease control with this drug, which we haven’t seen before. We need to better understand what we can do next to make immunotherapy more effective for more patients.”

With each passing day, scientists are making new discoveries that provide hope to mesothelioma patients. If you need information on medical resources or how to access the $30 billion asbestos trust fund money that you may be owed, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at  1-800-692-8608


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