Chinese physicians confronted with an acute case of mesothelioma may have stumbled upon a third line of treatment to extend overall patient survival. Physicians at 363 Hospital in Cheng Du were asked to treat a 58-year-old woman who arrived at the hospital with uncomfortable respiratory symptoms, including breathlessness, fluid in her lungs and a tightness in her chest. After running several tests they finally turned to a PET/CT scan, which revealed that she had an aggressive case of pleural mesothelioma of the epithelioid type, which had already involved both layers of her pleural lining and caused her pulmonary lymph nodes to swell. The woman was first treated with a standard chemotherapy treatment which was then escalated to the standard second-line treatment after her cancer returned. When the cancer returned yet again they turned to an investigational drug which provided surprisingly robust results.
Experimental Drug Delivers Surprising Results
The experimental drug, which provided the mesothelioma patient with an additional five months of progression-free survival, was apatinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is also called YN968D1. The drug is believed to stop tumors from forming blood vessels essential to their growth and their ability to metastasize to other parts of the body. In this individual case, the patient was first treated with Alimta (pemetrexed), the only drug that the FDA has approved for the treatment of mesothelioma, in combination with cisplatin. Though this chemotherapy medication is considered the gold standard in mesothelioma treatment, her tumor stopped responding to it, forcing her physicians to move to another treatment. They chose to continue the cisplatin and replace the Alimta with Gemzar (gemcitabine), which is a frequent second-line treatment choice for the rare form of cancer. As is often the case, that treatment stopped working after a few months as well, leaving the physicians with few other options.
Drug Delivers Five Months of Progression-Free Survival
They decided to try the experimental drug, first giving her 250 mg per day and then increasing her dosage to 500 mg per day one week later. They were surprised at the positive response they were able to achieve. Commenting in the medical journal Medicine, they write, “A 5-month progression-free survival was achieved. Apatinib may be a potential therapeutic drug for malignant pleural mesothelioma, particularly as a third-line treatment in cases resistant to chemotherapeutic options.”
If you have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, positive results like those achieved in China are reason for hope. For information on other breakthroughs and resources, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.