The University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland has set itself a goal of providing patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma with more options and improved survival times, and to that end they are focusing on making immunotherapy protocols more readily available to patients diagnosed with this rare and fatal form of cancer. The facility has been working on the development of antibodies that target specific antigens expressed on the surface of mesothelioma cancer cells.
Writing about the cancer center’s focus on malignant mesothelioma, Alessandra Curioni MD PD of the Department of Hematology and Oncology of the University Hospital Zurich states, “Immunotherapy is not yet approved for mesothelioma in Switzerland, and our institute has initiated and continued to be involved in clinical trials with immunotherapy as checkpoint inhibitors, as well as CAR T-cells. This has been only possible thank to a highly dedicated team of specialists in oncology, surgery, radio-oncology, pathology and radiology, who meet weekly to discuss all new cases with thoracic malignancies and implement the best personalized treatment for each patient.”
The group has been working towards that goal by testing the treatments they hope to use on mesothelioma patients on patients diagnosed with other thoracic cancers while they await approval of the use of the drugs in patients with the asbestos-related disease. They have found that by supplementing chemotherapy protocols with immunotherapy, they are able to improve overall survival, and that the combination is superior to chemotherapy alone. They have also found that using immunotherapy as a second-line treatment also delivers successful results. Where previously fewer than 3% of thoracic cancer patients were surviving three years after diagnosis, that number rose to 20% alive at five years with the addition of immunotherapy treatment.
In the future, it is the hope of the research team that they will be able to use the same approach on mesothelioma patients. In the meantime they have developed a mouse model of the disease to allow them to test a variety of treatment approaches and combinations to determine what responses they can achieve. So far they have identified a specific chemotherapy that works well with immune checkpoint inhibitor, and hope to gain approval from the Swiss Group for Clinical Cancer Research for further testing and clinical applications.
Mesothelioma patients face an uncertain future, but research is moving forward to provided longer survival times and better quality of life. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and you need more information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608 for more information.