New Treatments for Mesothelioma

ID-100196060Mesothelioma is often a fatal disease. Since this type of cancer can lie dormant for several years, many patients are unaware of their illness until it has progressed beyond the point of effective treatment. While traditional methods like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation may lengthen lifespans and reduce discomfort, they are often no match for mesothelioma.

Thankfully, as understanding of this illness grows, so do possibilities for effective treatment options. The following describes four new possible treatments for mesothelioma, some of which are in the beginning stages of clinical trials.

Stem Cell Inhibitors

In a new clinical trial, researchers at Verastem, Inc., a Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company, are focusing their efforts on inhibiting diseased stem cells in mesothelioma patients. Unlike chemotherapy, which destroys human cells indiscriminately, a drug called defactinib targets cancerous stem cells while leaving healthy cells intact. The trial, which is called COMMAND, or Control of Mesothelioma with Maintenance Defactinib, will test defactinib’s effectiveness as a maintenance drug in patients who have benefited, at least partially, from chemotherapy and/or other traditional treatment methods.

Though only in its enrollment stages, the placebo-controled, double-blind COMMAND trial is inciting much enthusiasm within the mesothelioma community. Researchers at Verastem say that approximately 400 patients will be enrolled in the study, which will take place at 11 different trial sites around the world.

Viral Therapy 

Researchers in Sheffield, England are testing the effectiveness of certain viral therapies in the treatment of mesothelioma. The goal of this study, which uses a modified version of the herpes simplex virus to attack diseased stem cells, is to determine whether or not this particular virus is effective in shrinking mesothelioma tumors. The virus, named HSV1716, has been rid of its harmful components and genetically engineered to leave healthy stem cells intact while destroying cancerous cells, and has proven effective in non-human laboratory tests. Since mesothelioma is such a progressive disease, the shrinking of its fast-growing tumors can prove extremely beneficial in treating this illness.

Immunotherapy

In patients with advanced mesothelioma, immunotherapy may be an option. In an Italian study performed between 2009 and 2012, advanced patients were given an antibody called tremelimumab, which suppresses the immune system’s tolerance to cancerous cells, and may prevent the growth of mesothelioma tumors. Eligibility requirements for this trial included a life expectancy of three months or longer, and inoperable tumors that failed to respond to chemotherapy or radiation. And while none of the subjects experienced complete eradication of tumors, a significant percentage experienced a marked improvement: in 31% of test subjects, the progression of mesothelioma slowed considerably.

Gene Therapy

Researchers at Australia’s Asbestos Diseases Research Institute are in the beginning stages of testing a certain type of gene therapy on human subjects with mesothelioma. This study involves the use of a unique system, called TargomiRs, that delivers synthetic genetic material into mesothelioma cells, which may prove effective in inhibiting the growth of tumors. In fact, in laboratory mice with human-derived mesothelioma, this system of delivering genetic material to diseased cells led to a remarkable decrease in the growth of mesothelioma tumors.

The TargomiRs trial is set to begin by the end of the year, and will include between 20 and 30 mesothelioma patients. Cited as extremely promising in the treatment of mesothelioma, this study is inciting hope among patients and researchers alike.

Mesothelioma is a frightening, often deadly disease. However, with these and other new treatment options, there is hope for patients with this disease.

For more information on mesothelioma resources, visit www.mesotheliomanews.com.

“Image courtesy of dream designs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

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