Researchers are constantly looking for better ways to treat mesothelioma. While there’s currently no cure for the disease, there are a variety of treatments. And in recent years, we have seen the introduction of new treatments that have provided patients more options, longer lives and a better quality of life.
Recently, a team at Rice University shared the results of their mesothelioma studies. Using a new implant, the team was able to fully eliminate several late-stage tumors in mice. While this new approach must still go through clinical trials, the early signs are promising.
A next-level immunotherapy
The centerpiece of the research team’s new treatment was a custom “cytokine factory.” One of the team members had designed this 1.5 millimeter implant to release tens of thousands of treated cells. The team engineers the cells to produce high amounts of interleukin-2 (IL-2), a cytokine, or messenger protein. It prompts white blood cells to attack cancer cells.
While most current mesothelioma treatments focus on surgery and chemotherapy, researchers have long been interested in immunotherapy treatments. Immunotherapy treatments like this modify the body’s natural defenses, strengthening them, and then using them to combat diseases.
The novelty and promise of Rice University’s approach is its pinpoint targeting. Surgeons can implant the new cytokine factory right beside the tumors or within the pleura. This positioning ensures the messenger proteins have maximum effect.
Indeed, the early reports suggest the treatment is extremely effective:
- It eliminated the mesothelioma tumors in half of the mice treated solely with the IL-2 factories
- It eliminated 100% of the mesothelioma tumors in the mice treated with a combination of the IL-2 factories and a checkpoint inhibitor that prevents the immune system from “turning off”
Again, the mesothelioma treatment from Rice University has not yet received approval for human trials, but it is clearly headed in the right direction. In fact, the team recently received FDA approval for clinical trials with a similar treatment for ovarian cancer. This could theoretically speed up the approvals process for clinical trials for mesothelioma.
It’s good to stay informed
One of the problems with mesothelioma is that treatment teams are not always aware of all their options. The cancer is rare, so many doctors focus their attention more toward more common cancers.
However, people diagnosed with the disease want to know all their options. They may benefit most from traditional treatments, or they may benefit most from the novel treatments that researchers are testing in clinical trials. But they cannot benefit from those treatments if they don’t know about them or know how to sign up. This means mesothelioma victims want to review their options with doctors, attorneys and other professionals who keep tabs on the latest treatments and trials.