Researchers working to find a cure for malignant mesothelioma are acutely aware of the need for speed: the disease is always considered fatal, and more people are diagnosed with and die of the condition every day. Still, there is a process that must be followed: theories need to be tested in the laboratory before people, and this slows everything down. Recently, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania had the opportunity to see the human results of a protocol that had shown promise with lab animals but is not yet ready for patient testing. They reported a significant positive outcome.
Combining palliative radiation with immuno-gene therapy
Previous animal research had combined radiotherapy with immune-gene therapy in the treatment of mice with malignant pleural mesothelioma, and had revealed both disease regression and what is called an abscopal effect – the combination not only affected tumors that were targeted by radiation but also those that were outside of the range of the therapy.
The researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania did not intend to test the effect on humans, but ended up doing so with a 67-year-old male patient with malignant pleural mesothelioma who signed on for a clinical trial of immuno-gene therapy. Though his tumor responded positively he needed to stop the treatment due to complications from his tumor for which he was given palliative radiation therapy followed by a standard course of chemotherapy.
Combination of treatments led to positive results
Two months after having completed the course of palliative radiotherapy, the man had a CT scan of his chest that revealed that the targeted mesothelioma tumor had shrunk. Remarkably, the treatment had also shrunk tumors that were outside of the irradiated field. This is the first report of a patient having an abscopal effect following radiotherapy and immune-gene therapy. Writing of his results, lead researcher Andrew R. Barsky said, “The patient’s response to immuno-gene therapy, palliative radiotherapy and subsequent chemotherapy, both in-field and out-of-field, was dramatic, and notably more pronounced than what is generally achievable for even well-responding malignant pleural mesothelioma patients In fact, his exaggerated response was far greater than would be expected based upon the volume of disease irradiated and radiation dose employed.” The researchers plan to pursue further study of this dynamic.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, positive outcomes like these offer reason for hope. For more information on treatment protocols available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.