The use of immunotherapy in the treatment of mesothelioma has generated tremendous excitement, but the protocol is very new, and researchers still have a great deal to learn. A recent study has suggested that cancer patients taking common drugs may experience diminished impact from immunotherapy – and may even have shorter survival outcomes.
Mesothelioma, the Biome, and Immunotherapy
To understand the most recent study and how it relates to mesothelioma outcomes, you need an introduction to the microbiome. This colony of “good” bacteria resides in our intestinal tract, and its role in our immune system has only recently become an area of focus. Scientists have learned that the microbiome plays a direct role in how we fight infection. If you have ever been told to consume probiotics, it is to boost the health of your microbiome. Probiotics feed the good bacteria and help it to fight infection.
Having a healthy microbiome supports the immune system, which is also the goal of immunotherapy treatments, whether for malignant mesothelioma or any other type of cancer. Immunotherapy provides the body with new tools for targeting and killing cancer cells. Researchers have long known that common medications like antibiotics and antacids can harm the biome’s healthy bacteria, and a recent study conducted at Ohio State University looked specifically at how that reaction impacts the effectiveness of immunotherapy.
Ohio State University Research Ties Immunotherapy Outcomes to Microbiome Health
The researchers from Ohio State University theorized that medical disruptions to the microbiome could have an impact on the effectiveness of immunotherapy treatments for mesothelioma and other cancers. They specifically investigated the interplay between the microbiome’s health and Keytruda, an immune checkpoint inhibitor found to extend survival in mesothelioma patients.
They found that patients being treated with Keytruda while also taking microbiome-disrupting drugs had reduced survival times. The drugs with the biggest negative impact included antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, histamine-blocking antacids and corticosteroids. Speaking of their results, first author Daniel Spakowicz, PhD., said, “There is growing evidence that the microbiome can significantly influence immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.” The scientists suggested that physicians using immunotherapy should test their patients’ microbiome health prior to immunotherapy treatment, and discontinue the use of those drugs during the treatment protocol.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, it is important to have as much information as possible. The Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net have access to the latest news on medical innovations and more. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.