The National Cancer Institute has just announced that it will be providing a $10.7 million grant to support research into an innovative treatment for malignant mesothelioma. The funding will go to the Translational Center of Excellence for Lung Cancer Immunology at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania so that researchers there can use it over the next five years to learn more about how chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy can be used to fight the solid tumors found in the rare and deadly asbestos-related disease, as well as in lung cancer patients.
Speaking of the grant and its goals of fighting mesothelioma and other significant lung diseases, Steven M. Albelda MD, the William Maul Measey Professor of Medicine at Penn and a member of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at the Abransom Cancer Center said, “Although CAR T cells have been revolutionized the treatment of leukemia and bone marrow cancers, we have not yet had the same success in treating solid tumors like lung cancer. The goal of this program project is to solve this problem, and we’re grateful to the NCI for supporting our efforts to expand this approach to more patients around the world.”
Specialists in cancers affecting the lung, including malignant mesothelioma, have been frustrated by their lack of knowledge about what is known as the “bystander effect” and how to harness it in treating tumors. This effect occurs when CAR T cells make other immune cells in the area respond to the presence of cancer. With the benefit of the funding provided, the group will begin with a study of the safety and activity of CAR T cells when they have been engineered to attach a tumor’s support structure. Some of these studies will be done in tandem with the drug company Novartis, while others will be conducted by Penn researchers on their own. Future research will study the impact that the use of the CAR T cells has on patient quality of life, how long the cells remain active and what happens to them within the body, and whether they facilitate any additional responses. Scientists will also be exploring how best to ensure that the cells are working to maximum effect and how they can be used with other therapies.“The stakes of these projects are incredibly high. Achieving the success rates for CAR T therapy in solid tumors that we’ve already seen in leukemia and lymphoma would be a major paradigm shift in the treatment of these cancers,” Albelda said.
If you are a mesothelioma patient who is interested in participating in clinical trials involving new treatments, the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can provide you with the information you need to pursue this goal. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.