Potential Mesothelioma Treatment To Be Tested By New Clinical Trial
Researchers in the U.K. will soon launch a clinical trial designed to evaluate a new treatment, and potential cure, for mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure that is generally considered fatal.
The clinical trial will be conducted by researchers and scientists at the University of Southampton and the University of Leicester, according to a press release issued on May 18. It will be the first such clinical trial undertaken at the University of Southampton’s Centre for Cancer Immunology, and is expected to be completed in September.
The only known cause of mesothelioma cancer is exposure to asbestos fibers, which were used in a variety of manufacturing and building industries until most uses were banned more than 30 years ago. The condition has proven to be fatal in nearly all cases, as it is often not diagnosed until the cancer is already at a very advanced stage, resulting in a very short life-expectancy after diagnosis.
However, this clinical trial, which will involve about 300 patients, hopes to show that a Bristol Myers Squibb drug, nivolumab, can help the body’s own immune system kill cancer cells. The drug works by blocking a protein called PD-1, which is on the surface of T-cells, which are part of the immune system. Researchers believe that blocking this protein will cause the T-cells to go after cancer cells and destroy them.
This is the third phase of randomized clinical trials, and researchers say the drug has had some success in treating mesothelioma already, with some patients having experienced full remission. One clinical trial subject has been free of mesothelioma and still lives, even though she was first diagnosed in 2009.
“Preliminary studies targeting PD-1 in mesothelioma have shown promising activity,” Professor Dean Fennell, leading the study, said in the press release. “Critically, we aim to understand why patients respond (or not) to this drug, and identify biomarkers to ensure that we can personalise therapy to maximize the benefit for patients.”
In March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that malignant mesothelioma has been linked to more than 45,000 deaths in the U.S. from 1999 to 2015, and rates are continuing to rise, even though most uses have long been banned.
Mesotheslioma lawsuits are part of the largest mass-tort in U.S. history, with more than 600,000 people having filed a case against more than 6,000 defendants due to injuries caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. In addition to individuals directly exposed to asbestos, a growing number of the lawsuits filed in recent years have involved second-hand exposure among individuals who inhaled fibers carried on on the clothes or in the hair of their parents when they were children.
Prior projections by the CDC suggested that the number of asbestos deaths from malignant mesothelioma would peak years ago. However, that does not appear to be the case.
Instead, from 1999 to 2015, the annual mesothelioma death rate increased by 4.8%, from 2,479 deaths in 1999 to 2,579 deaths in 2015.
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