National Cancer Institute grants $2.5 million to study biological markers of mesothelioma

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.

The five-year R37 MERIT Award to Dr. Bryan Burt would further his research project titled, “Proteomic Determinants of Response to Checkpoint Blockade in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.” To develop the test, Dr. Burt will take a close look at the architecture of tissue samples to see how tumors are organized, and to better understand the biological mechanism supporting immune responders.

“Preliminary data collected retrospectively showed that the tumors of patients who respond to ICIs tend to have a certain immune cell composition, which is quite complex,” Burt said in a press release issued by Baylor University. “We developed a technique to analyze the presence of about 30 different cell types in a very small bit of a tumor sample.”

The award that Dr. Burt received enables institutions such as the NCI to give physicians with stellar records of research accomplishment a five-year award with the possibility of extension for additional years without undergoing another review. Dr. Burt’s five-year award has an opportunity for an extension of up to two additional years, and if his research proves to be fruitful, would continue on through 2028.

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If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced mesothelioma attorneys about your situation. Our office can help investigate your case and determine if compensation can be sought from negligent parties to help pay for your medical treatment to help you and your family live a more comfortable life.

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