In the battle against malignant mesothelioma, immunotherapy is considered one of the most promising innovations in decades. The protocol uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, with different approaches using different aspects of the body’s defense mechanism.
This week, scientists from the world-renowned Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have announced a new approach to immunotherapy that they believe will be a game-changer in the fight against cancers of all types, including malignant mesothelioma.
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. It has proven to be particularly resistant to traditional approaches to cancer, including radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
That is why news of this latest immunotherapy discovery, a drug that can disarm cancer cells is so encouraging. Speaking of the breakthrough, Shiladitya Sengupta, assistant professor of medicine at the hospital and co-lead author of the new paper said,
“Cancer immunotherapy is considered to be the next big thing in treating cancer, but cancer is very smart. It can deploy many different mechanisms to subvert the immune system. We have designed a drug that can block one of those signals.”
Writing in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, SEngupta and colleagues explained that cancer cells have the ability to shut down the abilities of macrophages, which they refer to as the Pac-Man of the body’s immune system.
Macrophages exist to eat or destroy diseases like cancer, but cancer cells emit signals that tell the macrophages to ignore them. The scientists developed a medication that can be administered through an IV to disable those signals, thus allowing the macrophages to search out cancer cells like those found in mesothelioma and kill them.
“This is pretty serious,” Sengupta said. “If we can activate macrophages in patients you have an immune response against the cancer. This expands the whole repertoire of immune therapies for cancer patients.”
The approach has not yet been tested on mesothelioma, but it has proven to be effective in trials done on lab animals with skin cancer and breast cancer, halting tumor growth and significantly expanding the animals’ survival time.
The researchers say that the next step will be three years of clinical trials, expanding the use of their drug into different types of cancers, and onto human subjects.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are clinical trials and other resources available to help you fight the disease. For more information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608 today. We are here to help.