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Articles Posted in Mesothelioma Medical

A Norwegian biotechnology company recently announced that the 21-month followup data from its clinical stage immunotherapy trials revealed promising results for mesothelioma patients who are also undergoing chemotherapy to treat their rare and deadly form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The results of the study show that at least half of the patients who took the company’s immuno-oncology drug while undergoing chemotherapy are still alive, compared to an average survival rate of just over a year for those who did not.

Targovax ASA’s phase I/II trial of its ONCOS-102 aims to assess the safety, immune activation and clinical efficacy of the drug taken in combination with a patient’s chemotherapy regimen compared to those who underwent the standard chemotherapy only. The study examined 31patients in total, with 20 receiving the ONCOS-102 immunotherapy drug which targets hard to kill mesothelioma tumor cells. “It is most encouraging that survival continues to track so well in the ONCOS-102-treated first line group,” said Targovax’s chief medical officer . “We have earlier seen and reported how ONCOS-102 drives profound remodeling of the tumor microenvironment. It is now becoming clear that this is translating into long-term survival benefit.”

Mesothelioma has a latency period of anywhere from 20 to 50 years, which means decades can pass after exposure to asbestos before doctors are able to make a diagnosis, leaving many patients with diminished treatment options. Oftentimes, surgery is not an option to kill mesothelioma tumors, and patients are left with only chemotherapy as an option, which can take a toll on the individual’s overall health.

The National Cancer Institute recently awarded a $2.5 million grant to a Baylor University medical professor to develop clinical tests that would enable doctors to determine the likelihood of a patient responding to immunotherapy regimens before the patient receives the treatment, which would save certain patients from immune-related adverse events. In recent years, immunotherapy has become a viable treatment to prolong the lives of patients with mesothelioma, but about half of those patients experience adverse events and the research being conducted could potentially identify those likely to have bad outcomes.

Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, which was once commonly used in a variety of industrial, commercial, and military applications as an insulation and fire-retardant material. The disease commonly affects the thin linings of tissue surrounding the lungs and heart, but can also affect the tissues surrounding the abdominal cavity before spreading to other parts of the body.

Because mesothelioma has a latency period of anywhere from 20 to 50 years, patients are often left with diminished treatment options by the time the cancer is detected by a physician. As a result, surgery to remove tumors is not an option and patients must turn to radiation treatments to fight the disease, which can harm tissues surrounding the mesothelioma tumors. However, researchers continue to make progress on immunotherapies, which teach the body to use its own disease fighting mechanisms against mesothelioma tumors.

Researchers at a Scottish university are developing a new laser system that will help physicians distinguish between cancer tumor cells and healthy tissues, and allow them to remove the cancerous cells while leaving healthy surrounding tissue intact. To help further this research, the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has bestowed the project’s leader, Prof. Jonathan Shephard a 1.2 GBP grant and will further collaborate with the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust to develop the new system for brain cancers.

As one consultant surgeon at the Leeds trust noted, “the precision of a laser combined with imaging to accurately discriminate cancer from normal tissue will greatly enhance the ability of surgeons to completely remove cancers with minimal side-effects for patients.”

According to Shephard, the “laser system can remove cancer cells in a way that restricts damage to the surrounding, healthy cells – within the width of a human hair. Because the laser pulses are so short, there is no time for heat to burn the surrounding tissue, as happens with current surgical tools.” Shepherd’s team is also working to develop a flexible, optical fibre system that can be used to target and remove cancer cells on an even smaller scale than the current technology allows.

A recently published study by researchers at the University of Hawaii has uncovered a possible link between carrying a particular genetic mutation and developing mesothelioma, particularly if the individual is exposed to asbestos fibers. The research is part of ongoing research by oncologists and geneticists into the role that genetics may play in developing the rare form of cancer and creating personalized treatment plans for patients in order to prolong their rates of survival.

According to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, individuals who inherit a pair of mutated so-called “BLM” genes are more likely to develop mesothelioma cancer. People with the BLM gene are often affected by Bloom Syndrome, which exhibits such characteristics as a short stature, rash over the nose and cheeks, and an immune deficiency. Approximately one in every 900 individuals born with Bloom Syndrome only have one of the mutated BLM genes, which means that they produce only half of the normal amount of BLM protein and thereby increasing their risk of developing various forms of cancer.

The research in this study followed a previous discovery by the team’s lead researcher which showed that mutations to the BAP1 gene could lead to an increased susceptibility to developing cancer. Furthering the research into the BLM mutation, the National Institutes of Health has awarded the research team a grant in order to study a population in Nevada at risk of exposure to asbestos and other harmful mineral fibers.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently gave approval to the first new mesothelioma drug treatment combination for patients in the last 16 years. The drug combination, Opdivo (nivolumab) in combination with Yervoy (ipilimumab) are a first-line treatment for adults with malignant pleural mesothelioma that cannot be removed by surgery.

“Today’s approval of nivolumab plus ipilimumab provides a new treatment that has demonstrated an improvement in overall survival for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence and acting director of the Office of Oncologic Diseases in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “In 2004, FDA approved pemetrexed in combination with cisplatin for this indication, and now patients now have an important, additional treatment option after more than a decade with only one FDA-approved drug regimen.”

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a serious form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, and is caused by exposure to carcinogenic asbestos fibers. According to the FDA, about 20,000 Americans develop malignant pleural mesothelioma each year and accounts for most of the mesothelioma cases recorded. Furthermore, most of the patients diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma are not able to have their tumors operated on and this prognosis creates a generally poor survival rate.

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 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.”

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