Researchers Confirm PD-L1 Role In Mesothelioma

When you’re dealing with an extremely rare form of cancer like malignant mesothelioma, it would make sense to assume that everybody with the disease will receive similar treatments and experience similar progression of their disease. But even in a condition that strikes just 3,500 people per year, there can be wide variations, and French researchers have just confirmed that one of the biggest difference-makers is the presence or absence of a protein called PD-L1 in their tumors.

PD-L1 Protein Helps Tumors Hide From Immune System

When the body detects any kind of foreign cell — whether a mesothelioma cell or a bacteria or virus — the immune system kick into action and attacks it. But what French researchers have found is that when an individual patient’s tumors contain high levels of the protein PD-L1 (programmed death ligand 1), the immune system seems to bypass those cells. This is because PD-L1 effectively hides the tumors from detection.

In a study looking at the tumors of over 200 mesothelioma patients previously diagnosed with epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic subtypes, they found that those with tumors containing higher levels of PD-L1 experienced the shortest survival times: those with more than 1% of their tumor cells expressing PD-L1 lived a median of 12.3 months, while those whose tumors had les PD-L1 lived a median of 22 months. They also found the protein was more likely to be present in those with the rare subtypes, which are the sarcomatoid and biphasic types.  

PD-L1 Is A Target of Many Mesothelioma Treatments

As researchers confirm PD-L1’s role in both shorter survival and faster return of mesothelioma tumor growth after treatment in mesothelioma patients, they also are working to develop medications and treatments that specifically target the protein. Notably, three of the most promising cancer treatment drugs — Keytruda (pembrolizumab), Opdivo (nivolumab) and Bavencio (avelumab) — are all PD-L1 blockers that work to make mesothelioma cancer cells visible to the immune system.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, each study that reveals more about the illness is a step towards extended survival. For information about available treatments, contact the Patient Advocates at at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

Learn More About And Contact Terri
Get Help Contacting
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
24/7 Live Chat
Online Now