Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report of two recent discoveries in cancer immunotherapy and gene therapy treatments. The first breakthrough comes from the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida, focusing on a drug affecting the immune system. The second was discovered by researchers at South Paris University involving a new drug for mesothelioma patients with inactive NF2 genes.
Preliminary findings on the new drug show that it may decrease the ability for mesothelioma to spread in the body. The NF2 gene produces a protein called merlin, and is inactivated in about half of all mesothelioma patients. The merlin protein negatively regulates another protein, referred to as FAK, which quickens the spread of mesothelioma tumors in the body. When NF2 and merlin are inactive, the tumors are able to become more invasive and spread.
With this new drug, however, NF2 and merlin are re-activated and FAK activity and cancer spread are decreased. Professor Jean-Charles Soria of the Medicine and Medical Oncology department at South Paris University (he is also head of early drug development at the Institut Gustave Roussy in Paris) stated that this new drug may slow or stop the spread of mesothelioma in about 50% of patients.
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The drug is currently known as GSK2256098, and has shown success in one patient whose mesothelioma progressed quickly on other treatments. When that patient was administered the FAK-inhibitor therapy, however, their mesothelioma was stabilized, which is suggestive of clinical activity.
Professor Soria and his colleagues are conducting similar trials at nine other health centers around Europe and Australia, recruiting nearly 30 mesothelioma patients in a continuing study. The drug is taken orally in capsule form twice a day, at 1000 mg a day for most patients. So far, 14 mesothelioma patients had stable disease, nine had progressive, and three had non-measurable disease. On average, the patients enjoyed about 17 weeks of stable disease before it progressed.
Fortunately, the side effects were, for the most part, manageable and low-grade. Professor Soria notes that, although these findings are important, they are preliminary. In the coming years researchers will continue to gather and analyze data, initiate larger clinical trials (hopefully extending to the United States) and investigate whether the drug could affect other diseases, such as melanoma and meningioma.
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The other mesothelioma treatment showing much promising potential was developed at the Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Program at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL. These latest drug compounds are known as anti-PD-1 and anti-PD-L1; they are protein agents working to overcome the tumor’s ability to evade the body’s immune system. Although the drugs were initially created to attack lung cancer tumors, there is great potential for its use in pleural malignant mesothelioma as well.
PD-1 (programmed death) protein and PD-L1 (programmed death ligand) protein allow cancer cells to spread and multiply in the body. Specifically, when the two proteins interact, it prevents immune system cells (T cells) from attacking the cancer cells. Through creating PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors, the immune system will be better able to attack and destroy cancer cells.
Dr. Tawee Tanvetyanon stated that she does believe that the drugs will be the major focus of the Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Program, and that there is great promise for immunotherapy in general.
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