A small clinical study recently brought some encouraging news to people suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma, the most common type of mesothelioma. A combination of chemotherapy and two immune checkpoint inhibitor drugs called durvalumab (Imfinzi) and pemetrexed (Alimta) resulted in nearly double the median survival period compared to a historical control group where chemotherapy alone was used.
The survival results occurred without any new or unexpected toxicity, according to the study, as reported by MedPage Today. Additionally, an analysis of tumor genetics found that the combination treatment was associated with increased genomic instability, which is positive.
“We discovered some very unique features related to the genomic footprints of both the patient and the tumor that seem to determine clinical responses. … All of these findings have the potential to be translated into new strategies to treat patients with mesothelioma,” said one of the study’s co-authors.
The study, which appeared in the journal Nature Medicine, was performed at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore. However, it was too small to allow for broad adoption of the combination therapy.
Therefore, a randomized phase III trial has already begun in an effort to compare the outcomes of patients who are given the combination therapy versus those who are given only chemotherapy.
Other immunotherapy drugs are also being studied in mesothelioma patients. The FDA has approved two such drugs, nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy), for some patients when surgery is not possible. Earlier this year, a randomized trial showed improvements in median survival and progression-free survival when nivolumab was used instead of chemotherapy as a second-line treatment.
Two other drugs, atezolizumab (Tecentriq) and bevacizumab (Avastin), were found to prolong the lives of peritoneal mesothelioma when used in combination with chemotherapy and surgery.
What does this mean for mesothelioma patients?
Although mesothelioma is currently not curable, immunotherapy drugs or other medical advances could still improve patient outcomes. They might be able to give some patients a longer life with fewer symptoms.
Already, two of the drugs are FDA-approved for some patients in specific circumstances. Discuss immunotherapy with your doctor to find out if you fit the criteria.
If you do not, or the FDA-approved drugs are not right for you, you might also consider participating in a clinical trial for a new drug.