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A Sweedish pharmaceutical company recently announced it has seen positive results with a therapeutic cancer vaccine that could potentially be used in combination with other immuno-oncology drugs to treat metastatic malignant mesothelioma. The results of the clinical trials showed that more than half of the participants did not demonstrate disease progression, and none of the patients experienced unexpected safety issues which showed that the drug combinations were well-tolerated.

Drugmaker Ultimovacs ASA conducted the study on a group of 20 mesothelioma cancer patients who received a combination of the company’s UV1 cancer vaccine and pembrolizumab, PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor. This group of patients participated in the company’s Phase I study for the drug combination, which is designed to test the safety, tolerability, and initial signs of clinical response in patients treated with UV1 in combination with pembrolizumab.

Commenting on the study, Ultimovacs Chief Medical Officer released a statement saying, “The safety profile observed to date in this first cohort of the PD-L1 combination study is consistent with the promising safety profiles seen in our earlier Phase I trials. For the further development of our vaccine, it is important to demonstrate that UV1 can be combined with different classes of immunotherapies without compromising on safety.”

A New Jersey federal judge recently denied a motion to throw out a mesothelioma cancer lawsuit brought by the widow of a man who claimed he developed terminal cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos while serving aboard U.S. Navy ships. With the judge’s ruling, the lawsuit clears an important legal hurdle for the victims’ surviving spouse to hold the defendants accountable for their actions of putting her late husband and potentially other service members at risk for serious health conditions.

According to the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the deceased victim was exposed to asbestos fibers while serving aboard U.S.S. Charles H. Roan in the 1960s. The source of the asbestos exposure, according to the lawsuit, was from forced draft blowers manufactured with asbestos-containing gaskets manufactured by defendant Westinghouse. Those parts needed periodical replacement, based on specifications by the U.S. Navy.

Additionally, the U.S.S. Roan was equipped with a pair of boilers manufactured by co-defendant Foster Wheeler, which were also manufactured with asbestos-containing parts, including gaskets, sheet, and packing. Those asbestos parts too were expected to be replaced periodically. Both Westinghouse and Foster Wheeler had argued in their motion for summary judgment that the U.S. Navy was in full control of any maintenance, repair, or overhaul of the ship and further dedicated the type of material that needed to be installed or replaced on the vessel.  As a result, both Westinghouse and Foster Wheeler argued that they did not have a duty to warn for asbestos-containing parts manufactured by third parties.

A New York state appellate court recently upheld the verdict in an asbestos cancer lawsuit brought by a widower on behalf of his deceased wife who claimed that the defendant in the case was responsible for her diagnosis of terminal cancer caused by exposure to mesothelioma. The defendant, Federal Mogul Asbestos Personal Injury Trust, as Successor to Felt Products Manufacturers, had appealed the jury’s award at trial, which handed down a substantial $75 million verdict on behalf of the plaintiff.

The lawsuit against the entity representing Felt Products Manufacturers, filed in a New York City Asbestos Court, claimed that the victim developed mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos containing Fel-Pro gaskets manufactured by the defendant. The mesothelioma cancer lawsuit claimed that the victim regularly helped her husband remove and change asbestos containing engine gaskets from their vehicles and from taking her and her husband’s dusty clothes into their laundry room to clean.

The jury hearing the case at trial awarded damages of $50 million to the victim for pain and suffering, $40 million for past and $10 million for future; and $25 million to her husband for loss of consortium, $15 million for past, $10 million for future. In appealing that award, the defendant asserted that it was excessive and was unwarranted based on the evidence presented at trial. In hearing the appeal, the Supreme Court of the State of New York County of New York vastly reduced the amount of the award, to $12 million for past and $4 million for future pain and suffering for the victim; and for loss of services to $1 million for past, and $250,000 for future damages for her husband.

A Louisiana federal judge recently handed down an important ruling in an asbestos cancer lawsuit brought by the estate of a man who claimed he developed mesothelioma after previously settling with the defendant over other asbestos-related health claims. In her ruling, the Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Louisiana determined that the victim’s settlement agreement with the defendant, Avondale Shipyards, did not preclude him from bringing his most recent claim alleging that he developed mesothelioma while working at the facility.

The asbestos cancer lawsuit was brought by the victim’s family on his behalf. The victim had passed away in 2018 due to complications with mesothelioma, and his surviving family took up the lawsuit on behalf of his estate. Defense attorneys for Avondale Shipyard had previously sought to have the case remanded to a federal court back in 2018, claiming that the federal officer removal statute required the case to be heard in a federal district court because the company acted under the direction of a federal entity.

This time, Avondale Shipyard pointed to settlement agreements the victim had entered into with no less than 37 entities back in 1991 concerning his asbestosis diagnosis. Asbestos is a long term inflammation and scarring of the lungs due to exposure to asbestos fibers, usually from breathing in the material. Its symptoms may include shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, and chest tightness. In both lawsuits, the plaintiff alleged that he was exposed to asbestos fibers during the course of his employment at the shipyard, and sought to hold the defendants accountable for each separate health claim.

A recently published Japanese study conducted by university oncologists shows improved outcomes for certain mesothelioma patients who undergo near-infrared irradiation treatment used in combination with a cancer-targeting compound. The experiment, which was conducted on laboratory mice, as well as human cells with malignant mesothelioma found that near-infrared photoimmunotherapy was an effective and low-risk method for killing cancer cells without harming the surrounding tissues.

Conducted by Nagoya University, the treatment on the subjects utilized a cancer-targeting antibody compound, designed to a specific structure on the cancer cells, and a photo-absorber called IR700. When the near-infrared light is shone on the cancer-infected part of the body, the antibody compound aggregates on the membranes of the tumor cells, which ruptures the cells and kills the tumor.

“The lungs and chest cavity contain a large amount of air and are thus very good at effectively transmitting near-infrared light,” says Kazuhide Sato of Nagoya University. “NIR-PIT is a safe phototherapy option that can target a region of interest. The antibody-IR700 conjugate is also non-toxic to the body in the absence of near-infrared light irradiation. We thus thought that NIR-PIT could be an effective strategy for controlling localized MPM.”

A recent study examining a new therapy in an emerging cancer treatment known as T-cell therapy has shown positive results, according to an executive with the clinical-stage immunotherapy company that developed the treatment. Developed by TCR2 Therapeutics Inc., TC-210 TRuC-T cell products were given to five mesothelioma cancer patients who took part in the study. The results showed a median reduction range from the sum of the diameters of the tumors of 42%.

“We are delighted that our very first dose of TC-210 induced consistent tumor regression and clinical benefit in heavily pre-treated cancer patients,” said Garry Menzel, Ph.D., of TCR2 Therapeutics. “There are very few options for patients with solid tumors and those expressing mesothelin represent a significant frontier of unmet medical need. While these are early data requiring further study, we are encouraged by the potential of our TRuC-T cells as we continue to enroll and treat patients with the goal of quickly finding a recommended Phase 2 dose for TC-210.”

According to the research company, the primary focus of the Phase 1 portion of the study on TC-210 was to “define the safety profile of TC-210 in patients whose tumors overexpress mesothelin and to determine the recommended Phase 2 dose (RP2D).” One of the key clinical findings from the study on the five patients found that TC-210 was generally well tolerated by the group.

A recent analysis published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology determined that peritoneal mesothelioma patients who underwent surgery had a far better survival rate compared to those who did not have surgical intervention to treat their cancer. The study analyzed the survival rates of over 2,000 patients diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma between 2003 and 2014 and found that for those who underwent “radical” surgery, the survival period was up to five times longer than those who did not.

Examining the data, the study found that about half of the patients did not undergo any kind of surgery to treat their peritoneal mesothelioma cancer, and had an average survival rate of about seven months after diagnosis. On the other hand, those who underwent radical surgery, about 34% of those looked at, had an average survival rate of just over three years. Another group, which underwent a combination of surgery and chemotherapy, had an average survival rate of just under three and a half years.

According to the study, prior to the turn of the century, the average life expectancy of a patient diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma was less than a year. The study recommends that doctors suggest surgery to their newly diagnosed patients who are able to undergo such procedures, in order to extend their lives.

A recently published study from the Netherlands appears to indicate that a combination of a pair of immunotherapy drugs can help improve the prognosis of mesothelioma patients with tumors that are not able to be removed through surgery. The experiment, named checkmate 743, compared the use of first-line nivolumab and ipilimumab versus platinum-based chemotherapy in a group of over 600 mesothelioma cancer patients, and showed significant tumor shrinkage for a large portion of the participants who were given the two-drug combination.

Conducted by The Netherlands Cancer Institute and The University of Leiden, in Amsterdam, the study showed a two year survival rate in 41% of the 303 participants given the combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab, contrasted with a 27% survival rate of the 302 patients  undergoing platinum-based chemotherapy. For many decades, chemotherapy has been the standard of care for mesothelioma patients diagnosed with tumors that cannot be operated on or otherwise surgically removed.

“CheckMate 743 met its primary endpoint of statistically improved OS with nivolumab + ipilimumab vs standard of care chemotherapy in first-line treatment of patients with mesothelioma,” said Paul Baas, M.D., who presented the study’s findings at The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer conference. “These clinically meaningful data represent the first positive phase 3 trial of immunotherapy in first-line MPM and should be considered as a new standard of care.”

The world’s largest chemical company recently agreed to a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought by plaintiffs who allege that the company lied about the presence of asbestos in its talc, which caused various types of cancer including mesothelioma. Per the terms of the settlement, German chemical company BASF will set aside $72.5 million for plaintiffs who filed asbestos cancer lawsuits against the company between March 1984 and March 2011, including those whose claims were dismissed or voluntarily withdrawn.

The settlement still awaits the approval of a New Jersey federal judge, and if approved, it would allow BASF to resolve claims covered by the agreed upon time period while not admitting any wrongdoing to the allegations made in the lawsuits. Specifically, the claims concerned Englehard Corp., which BASF acquired in 2006, which produced talc based products used in both industrial settings and consumer products.

According to the asbestos cancer lawsuit, one plaintiff claimed that she developed cancer as a result of secondhand exposure to carcinogenic materials brought home on the clothes of her father, who was a research assistant who claimed that the defendants knew about contaminated talc for years. The case went through years of litigation, during which time the case was dismissed but later resurrected by a federal court that found that the defendants engaged in systemic fraud in order to derail the judicial process.

A New Jersey federal judge recently handed down an order indicating that the court will randomly select 1,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits to proceed as bellwether trials for the estimated 16,000 total of such cases currently pending before federal courts. The order comes just a few months after the same judge handed down an important ruling which allowed the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses to present evidence at trial showing that defendant Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products caused the victims’ cancers.

Per the judge’s order, the plaintiffs in the selected cases will have three months to order and produce medical records related to their cancer diagnoses. Further, the records produced must be served to the defendants within that same 90-day period.

The lawsuits accuse pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson of knowingly manufacturing and selling asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products to consumers without any warnings about the health effects of using the products. Such talcum powder products include Johnson & Johnson’s iconic Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. Until recently, Johnson & Johnson’s longtime talc supplier Imerys Talc USA was named to many of the lawsuits but the company has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

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