Mesothelioma is notoriously hard to diagnose and treat. Even so, the outlook for people who receive mesothelioma diagnoses today is much better than it would have been years back.
Researchers may not have found a universal cure, but they have made advances in many directions. These advances add up. Together, they lead to better survival rates and quality of life. And two recent articles highlight the different ways researchers continue to push for improvements.
Phase II vaccine trials now underway
The United States isn’t the only place where researchers are trying to find better ways to combat mesothelioma. One of the more promising developments of late comes from Norway. A company based in Oslo recently announced that it has successfully recruited its candidates for a Phase II clinical trial.
This trial aims to measure the impact of the company’s UV1 vaccine in combination with two standard mesothelioma drugs. The vaccine targets the human telomerase (hTERT) present in most cancers throughout tumor growth. Telomerase helps prevent damage to a cell’s DNA when it divides, and cancer cells typically feature more telomerase than other cells.
The trial will use the UV1 vaccine in combination with two checkpoint inhibitors. Cancers often trigger checkpoints that shut down immune responses. The checkpoint inhibitors counteract that suppression of the immune system. The drugs featured in the trial are ipilimumab and nivolumab.
Notably, this trial measures the vaccine and drug combination as a second-line treatment. This means it would follow surgery or any other initial treatment.
If the trial is successful, it could mean the development of a new treatment approach. It wouldn’t be a simple cure, but it could help doctors better tailor their treatments to their patients.
Two biological markers may improve future diagnoses
The problem with mesothelioma isn’t just that it’s hard to treat. The cancer is also hard to diagnose. Its symptoms are common to many far more common diseases.
A study from Japan recently focused on helping doctors diagnose the disease. Its authors noted that the current method for diagnosing mesothelioma relies upon several steps:
- Biochemical testing
- Understanding a patient’s history of asbestos exposure
This is partly due to the fact that biochemical testing is often inconclusive on its own. Researchers have not yet identified any proteins or biological markers unique to mesothelioma. However, this hasn’t stopped them from looking.
The recent study focused on two potential markers that could help doctors distinguish epithelioid mesothelioma cells from those belonging to other cancers:
- RhoA is a protein involved in cell migration
- Vigilin plays a role in numerous cellular processes, including the transcription of genetic information
The study found that the two proteins were reliable markers. They weren’t infallible, but they could help doctors distinguish mesothelioma from other lung cancers.
From better diagnoses to better treatment
While both of these studies are still in the early stages, they provide several reasons for mesothelioma victims to remain hopeful:
- They remind us that mesothelioma research isn’t confined to the U.S. Scientists across the globe are looking for new ways to help victims.
- They remind us that researchers are looking in multiple areas, from diagnoses to treatments.
- They illustrate how today’s researchers continue to build upon all the existing research.
And while these studies remind us that scientists continue to push mesothelioma treatment forward, they also remind us how important it is for doctors to keep up with the latest research.
Because mesothelioma is a rare cancer, doctors may not stay up-to-date with all the latest developments. As a result, patients may want to advocate for themselves. To make sure their treatment takes advantage of all available options, they may want to seek out doctors and other professionals who can help them identify those options.