New research out of the Annals of Oncology shows that a novel drug-combination therapy could be used to prolong overall survival (OS) in patients living with unresectable (inoperable) malignant pleural mesothelioma.
The study, which involved 600 mesothelioma patients, showed that those receiving nivolumab (Opdivo®) in combination with ipilimumab (Yervoy®) survived longer than those in the control group, who received traditional platinum-based chemotherapy.
Patients who received the novel drug-combination therapy with Opdivo and Yervoy survived for an average of 18.1 months, while those who received platinum-based chemotherapy survived an average of 14.1 months, marking a 28% improvement in OS.
The study also showed that at the 3-year follow-up, patients who eventually stopped the combination drug therapy still showed better results compared to those who received platinum-based chemotherapy. The 3-year OS rate was 23.2% compared to 15.4%, favoring patients who were given the Opdivo-Yervoy drug therapy.
While the study is not a breakthrough in the treatment of mesothelioma, it could offer hope to thousands of Americans currently living with the disease.
Mesothelioma, a rare and fatal cancer caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos, is diagnosed in around 3,000 Americans each year. Roughly a third of those diagnosed are U.S. veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their service.
Recent Study Offers Hope to Mesothelioma Patients
In an interview with the publication Targeted Oncology, Solange Peters, MD, who was lead author of the study, discussed the findings. Peters said:
“Mesothelioma is a rare disease entity where we have not been making any significant advances in recent years…. However, what is interesting with these data is that, first of all, the data shows that [Opdivo and Yervoy] gives rise to a significant durable survival benefit…. I think the difference here is the dual immunotherapy.”
Both Opdivo and Yervoy are two recently developed immunotherapy drugs. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), immunotherapy drugs work by stimulating or boosting the natural defenses of a person’s immune system so that it works harder and/or smarter to find and attack cancer cells.
As clinical trials demonstrating the efficacy of immunotherapy become more common, it is likely to become an important part of treating mesothelioma. Every year, new immunotherapy treatments are being tested and approved, and according to the ACS, the field of immunotherapy is growing “at a very fast pace.”
Innovations in Mesothelioma Treatment
As humanity continues to progress in its ability to treat cancer, some cancers, such as mesothelioma, remain rare and understudied. That’s why it is especially important to fund mesothelioma research and support initiatives that generate awareness of mesothelioma and its only known cause: asbestos.
Any advances in the international community’s collective understanding in the treatment of mesothelioma are critical. These advances — though seemingly small taken independently — offer hope to tens of thousands of individuals around the world living with this rare form of cancer.
Research regarding the treatment of mesothelioma has been seeing some truly exciting advances in recent years, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to help treat and monitor patients living with the disease.
Until a cure for the disease is discovered, the greatest defenses against mesothelioma remain prevention and early detection.
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