Johnson & Johnson Disputes FDA Finding of Asbestos in Talcum Powder

Johnson & Johnson recently recalled thousands of bottles of its popular baby powder after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported finding asbestos in samples. Already facing thousands of lawsuits over mesothelioma and other types of cancer potentially triggered by talcum powder, the company is denying the FDA’s findings. A new problem has arisen, however, with evidence that Johnson & Johnson rushed its tests that found no asbestos in baby powder.

Voluntary Recall of over 33,000 Baby Powder Bottles

The lawsuits have been going on for several years, and while some victims have won their cases, Johnson & Johnson has consistently denied their products contain any asbestos or cause cancer. Just a few weeks ago, the FDA tested a batch of baby powder and found it contained contaminating asbestos. The FDA recommended that consumers immediately stop using the product.

Out of what it calls “an abundance of caution,” Johnson & Johnson responded to the FDA report by issuing a voluntary recall of a batch of baby powder made and shipped to retail outlets in 2018. The company also announced it would be working closely with the FDA to test products and determine the validity of the results that found asbestos.

Third-Party Testing Finds No Asbestos – But Results Rushed

Although Johnson & Johnson responded to the FDA by issuing a voluntary recall, it also took steps to initiate third-party testing of the same batch of product. It announced that two separate labs tested the baby powder and found no more than 0.00002 percent of asbestos.

While the news seemed good and bumped the company’s stock significantly back up, now reports indicate that the third-party results could be compromised. Johnson & Johnson was so eager to get new results that it rushed the testing.

One round of the tests was done in a lab that hadn’t been properly prepared. As a result the tests were likely contaminated by an air conditioning unit. The lab that did the testing blames the contamination on Johnson & Johnson for pushing them to get it done so quickly.

No Safe Amount of Asbestos

It may be true that the FDA samples contained asbestos and that the third-party samples did not. To truly understand if a batch of talcum powder is contaminated requires multiple tests. Any contaminating asbestos may not be uniformly distributed throughout the product.

Another issue is that no amount of asbestos is considered safe. The tiny fibers of asbestos, which may be in talcum powder products because talc is a natural mineral found with other mineral deposits, can be inhaled into the airways. There they cause damage, and the more exposure a person has, such as after years of baby powder use, the more likely that damage will cause mesothelioma or lung cancer.

There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, which means that even trace amounts found in Johnson & Johnson products can be problematic. Consumers need to be aware of the risks so they can make their own, informed decisions about using these products. If you used Johnson & Johnson talcum powder and later developed mesothelioma or other lung conditions, contact an experienced mesothelioma and asbestos lawyer for guidance.

Benefits of Immunotherapy Match Those of Chemotherapy, New Mesothelioma Study Finds

A trial of immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab in patients with mesothelioma has had promising results. The trial shows that the benefits of the therapy equal those of standard chemotherapy, which can cause a lot of uncomfortable side effects. Researchers hope that the study will also shed light on why some patients respond better to immunotherapy than others, advancing this important type of treatment.

Pembrolizumab and Immunotherapy

Pembrolizumab is an immunotherapy drug used under the brand name Keytruda. It is currently approved to treat several types of cancer, including lung cancer, gastric cancer, cervical cancer, and esophageal cancer, often along with chemotherapy. It is used for mesothelioma in trials, where researchers hope it will prove useful for these patients.

This drug is known as a checkpoint inhibitor. It is a humanized antibody that binds to a receptor known as PD-1 on T-cells. The T-cells are cells in the immune system that attack and eliminate invading, harmful cells in the body. Cancer cells have developed to evade T-cells by expressing a protein on their surfaces called PD-L1.

PD-L1 on cancer cells binds to PD-1 on immune system T-cells. This causes the T-cells to recognize the cancer cells as harmless. Pembrolizumab binds to PD-1 so that cancer cells cannot bind there and fool the T-cells into thinking they are harmless. In some patients this has the effect of increasing immune system action against cancer cells. In other words the immunotherapy drug boosts the immune system to attack tumors.

The PROMISE-Meso Trial

The current trial, known as PROMISE-Meso, is testing the use of pembrolizumab in patients with mesothelioma. Results so far show that about four times as many patients responded to the immunotherapy than standard chemotherapy.

The bad news about these results is that the positive response to immunotherapy did not extend patients’ lives. However, the results are promising in that they demonstrate that many more patients can benefit from pembrolizumab than previously believed.

A difficulty with immunotherapy is that some patients respond to it and others do not. Why this is the case is not well understood, but studies like the PROMISE-Meso trial are helping to answer the question. And, with similar benefits to chemotherapy but with fewer side effects, pembrolizumab may be a better option for some patients.

Moving Forward with Immunotherapy

The PROMISE-Meso trial is providing important information about immunotherapy and mesothelioma. Moving forward researchers hope to get even better results by combining pembrolizumab with other types of chemotherapy drugs and trying it in patients with earlier-stage mesothelioma, which is considered much more treatable.

Researchers also hope that ongoing studies with this drug and with mesothelioma patients will give them a better understanding of who benefits. This will help oncologists provide more targeted, effective treatments for individuals.

Treatment options for patients with mesothelioma, especially in the later stages, are currently limited. Studies like this one are important for developing better, more individualized treatment that will provide patients with more hopeful results and fewer damaging side effects.

Phase II Clinical Trial Recruiting Mesothelioma Patients for Immunotherapy

A clinical trial testing two immunotherapy drugs in the treatment of mesothelioma is still recruiting patients who want to participate. The trial, led by Dr. Arkadiusz Dudek of HealthPartners Regions Cancer Care Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, needs 35 adults with mesothelioma. The trial is ready for phase II and will be held at several locations around the U.S. It is being sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly and Company.

Nivolumab and Ramucirumab

The clinical trial is testing two immunotherapy drugs used together for malignant mesothelioma: nivolumab and ramucirumab. The outcomes being measured in the study include the patient response rate to the treatment, adverse events, progression-free survival times, and overall survival. The researchers also hope to determine why some patients respond to this kind of treatment and others do not.

Nivolumab is an immunotherapy cancer drug that has already been used in treating many types of cancers. It is a PD-1 inhibitor, which means it blocks the interaction between a protein, PD-L1 on mesothelioma cancer cells, and another protein, PD-1 on immune system T-cells.

The interaction between these two proteins is used by the cancer cells to block the action of the T-cells. The immune system cells would otherwise recognize the cancer cells as problematic and move to destroy them. Nivolumab blocks the interaction so that T-cells are able to recognize cancer cells.

The idea of the current trial is to add ramucirumab to the mix to weaken and slow the growth of cancer cells so that nivolumab can be more effective. Ramucirumab blocks the development of new blood vessels, which are necessary for tumor growth. With fewer blood vessels the cancer cells cannot access the necessary oxygen and nutrients. Ramucirumab only acts on cancer cells, not healthy cells.

Who is Eligible for the Trial?

The current trial, in phase II, is recruiting patients who have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma who are not eligible for surgery to cure the cancer and who have already had one round of chemotherapy.

Participants must be at least 18 years old, must be prepared to undergo a biopsy guided by a CT-scan, and must meet several health requirements. Certain health conditions make participants ineligible. These include strokes or heart attacks in the past six months, major surgery in the last month, brain metastases, poorly controlled hypertension, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and others.

Clinical Trial Locations

Patients who wish to participate in this trial have the benefit of being able to choose from among several study locations:

  • Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida.
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Karmanos Cancer Center, Wayne state University, Detroit, Michigan
  • HealthPartners Institute Regions Cancer Care Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and have already had at least one round of chemotherapy, you may be eligible for this exciting clinical trial. Phase II is already under way, but the researchers still need qualified participants. Talk to your medical team about the benefits and risks of participating in clinical trials and let them know you’re interested in being a part of this one.

White House Staff Relocated as Asbestos Discovered and Abated

Several White House staffers, including senior aides like Ivanka Trump and Larry Kudlow, have been forced to relocate from their offices due to the hazards posed by asbestos in the historic building. The $250,000-abatement project to remove the harmful materials is expected to take a few weeks. This highlights the ongoing need to recognize the presence and the risks of asbestos in older buildings and the president’s stance of current use of asbestos.

Asbestos in Older Buildings – Risks and Removal

The use of asbestos in the construction of buildings was once widespread. Construction workers were long put at risk of exposure to asbestos dust from insulation, wallboard, cements, adhesives, and may other materials. Now, people who live or work in older buildings are at risk.

Asbestos that is contained well is not much of a risk to human health. But any disruption of asbestos, through normal wear and tear, natural disasters, or maintenance work, can release harmful fibers into the air. Workers or residents in buildings with loose asbestos may inhale the fibers, which then can cause damage to internal tissues and organs, potentially leading to respiratory illnesses and cancers, particularly pleural mesothelioma.

Abatement is the process of removing asbestos and it must be done with care. If asbestos is secure and contained, abatement isn’t typically necessary. If it is going to be removed, the process requires specially trained workers with the right equipment.

The White House Project

In the White House, abatement teams are removing asbestos from the second floor of the West Wing. Several top aides as well as much of the legal team have been relocated for the duration of the project. Asbestos being removed is in the ceiling and attic spaces.

The abatement is expected to take through the end of August and to cost $250,000. A spokesperson for the U.S. General Services Administration has stated that the work is precautionary and that none of the people in the building right now are at risk of exposure.

Trump’s Controversial Position on Asbestos

Not only does the current abatement project in the White House serve as a reminder that asbestos is still all around us, it also calls to attention some of the positions Trump has taken on asbestos in the past. Long before running for president, in the 1990s, Trump stated in his book The Art of the Comeback that he believed anti-asbestos movements to be conspiracies led by the mafia. He took a stand for the safety of properly installed asbestos materials.

More recently, and as the president, Trump has continued to downplay the risks of asbestos. In 2017 the president cut back a review of asbestos and other harmful chemicals. The review had been mandated by Congress as part of the Toxic Substances Control Act. He has also appointed cabinet members, such as Scott Pruitt, briefly the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who favor industry over protecting the public from asbestos.

Consumers and voters need to be aware that asbestos is still around, even if there are restrictions in place to make it less common. The U.S. is one of very few industrialized countries that have still not placed an outright ban on this harmful substance. The current abatement project in one of America’s most famous buildings shows just how insidious and common asbestos is.

Disappointing Results in Ofev Mesothelioma Clinical Trial

Immunotherapies, treatments that harness the immune system to fight cancer cells, hold a lot of promise for all types of cancer and even treatment for mesothelioma, a difficult type of cancer. Some treatments have been successful in some patients, while others have fallen short. One immunotherapy drug that held great promise for mesothelioma patients has unfortunately recently failed in clinical trials.

Ofev and Immunotherapy

Ofev is the brand name for an immunotherapy drug known as nintedanib. Developed by Boehringer Ingelheim, nintedanib is currently used to manage idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis associated with non-small-cell lung cancer and for some cases of lung cancer.

This drug works by targeting growth factor receptors, which are part of the process of the development of pulmonary fibrosis, scarring in the lungs. For treating cancer, Ofev may help by slowing the formation of new blood vessels that carry nutrients and oxygen to cancer cells. Without these blood vessels tumor growth slows and may even stop or result in cell death. Unlike chemotherapy, this kind of immunotherapy drug is specific and targets cancer cells, not healthy cells.

The Mesothelioma Clinical Trial – Hopes and Failures

Ofev has shown some promise in managing lung cancers, which gave researchers and patients hope that it could also treat mesothelioma. Early trials were promising. The results with lung cancer were successful enough that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted orphan drug status for Ovef, allowing it to be used for some mesothelioma patients even without final approval.

In the second phase of the clinical trial to use Ofev for mesothelioma patients, results were positive. Patients who received Ofev along with chemotherapy had a survival time of 18.3 months compared to 114.2 months for patients who only received chemotherapy. The progression-free survival times were 9.4 months and 4.7 months, respectively.

While these results indicated Ofev with chemotherapy could extend a mesothelioma patient’s life, the next round of the trial proved disappointing. The most recent results showed know benefits. A group of 458 patients received cisplatin chemotherapy and pemetrexed, an immunotherapy drug. Some got a placebo as well, while others received Ofev.

The overall survival time was 16.1 months for patients who received the placebo. It was just 14.4 months for those who received Ofev. In terms of symptoms and side effects the Ofev group faired only slightly better. Unfortunately, due to these results the study was halted.

More Results with Ofev Expected

While the phase III results for Ofev disappointed patients and researchers, other trials are ongoing and provide hope. A clinical trial being conducted at Wayne State University is about to complete phase II and results are expected soon. The trial is using Ofev alone in patients with pleural mesothelioma. There are other factors to be considered than those tested in the failed trial. Researchers in this current trial hope that they will see better, more hopeful results.

Whether the results from the Wayne State trial will be positive remains to be seen. In the meantime, researchers continue to test new drugs, develop more promising immunotherapies, and give patients with this terrible cancer a little more hope.

Researchers Developing Breath Test for Earlier Mesothelioma Diagnoses

Mesothelioma is a difficult disease to treat, in part because it is aggressive and grows in the form of multiple small tumors. It spreads quickly and because of the way the tumors grow, it is difficult to eliminate all cancerous cells. Researchers are working toward developing better treatments, but some are also tackling the problem from the diagnostic end. If oncologists can diagnose mesothelioma earlier, treatments will be more effective and patients will have a chance to live longer.

Collaboration Brings Study to Mesothelioma Patients

The latest research that may help diagnose mesothelioma earlier involves identifying markers in exhaled breath. The studies are a result of a partnership between the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (IAHFAIW) and a British company Owlstone Medical.

The IAHFAIW is interested in this kind of research because its members are vulnerable to asbestos exposure, the leading cause of mesothelioma. Owlstone is a company that researches and develops diagnostic tests, including several breathalyzers used as a type of biopsy for cancer.

The Breathalyzer Studies

The purpose of the study is to determine if breathalyzer diagnostics can find markers of mesothelioma and accurately diagnose patients earlier than current, more invasive strategies like surgical biopsy. The first phase of the study will use the breathalyzer to analyze compounds in the breath of patients already known to have been exposed to asbestos and to have mesothelioma.

The researchers are looking for volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that clearly indicate the presence of this specific type of cancer. The hope is that there will be VOCs that are distinct in patients known to have mesothelioma which could then be used to diagnose or rule out the cancer in other patients.

In the second part of the study researchers will verify how sensitive and specific the test is at identifying the VOCs. They will also look at how accurately the test can give a negative or positive result for mesothelioma.

The Importance of Early Diagnosis

Mesothelioma is not just an aggressive cancer that is difficult to treat, it is also a cancer type that is challenging to diagnose. The latency period between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis is often decades, up to 50 years. By the time most people get an accurate diagnosis of this cancer, it is in a later stage and treatment options are limited. Life expectancy is limited.

A non-invasive, accurate diagnostic took like a breathalyzer could give people many more years to live. It may have the potential to screen any workers who are at risk for asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is rare, and not everyone exposed will develop it. But if an easy test could quickly sort between those who have the cancer and those do not, it could save lives.

Currently the prognosis for patients with mesothelioma is a survival time of one year or less. An early diagnosis could give these patients many more years to live. This is the hope of the new collaboration and set of studies.

First New Approved Treatment for Mesothelioma in More Than a Decade

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a new therapy indicated for the treatment of mesothelioma. Using electric currents rather than toxic chemotherapy drugs, the therapy can inhibit tumor growth. The last new treatment approved by the FDA specifically for treatment of this type of cancer was the chemotherapy agent pemetrexed in 2004. The new approval gives patients living with this difficult cancer new hope.

Clinical Success with Tumor Treating Fields

The medical device approved for mesothelioma treatment is known as the NovoTTF-100L System, or the Tumor Treating Fields System. Made and tested by Novocure, the device received approval under the FDA’s Humanitarian Device Exemption. This exemption allows for quicker and easier approval of a device that may benefit patients with rare diseases, like mesothelioma.

The approval came on the heels of Novocure’s phase II clinical trial known as STELLAR. Usually, new treatments are not approved until several more phases have proven it to be safe and effective. In the phase II trial, nearly 100 percent of participants saw benefits from the Tumor Treating Fields System.

Clinical results were positive, with survival times of 12 months for patients who received only chemotherapy and 18 months for those who received chemotherapy along with the new treatment. The System also did not seem to cause any major adverse events in participants. Mild skin irritation was most common.

How the New Treatment Works

The NovoTTF-100L makes use of alternating electrical fields of low intensity to disrupt tumor growth. Researchers believe that the electrical fields and currents at specifically tuned frequencies interfere with how cancer cells divide. Disrupting this process prevents tumors from getting bigger. The device is designed to be used by patients in their own homes.

Similar therapies have already been used and approved in other types of cancer that are similarly aggressive and difficult to treat. The patients in Novocure’s phase II trial included 80 people with unresectable mesothelioma. This means that it could not be managed or treated with surgery, in most cases because the cancer had metastasized and spread throughout the body.

The Importance of New Treatments for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a devastating type of cancer that is often diagnosed when it is too late to achieve remission. It is generally considered incurable and has a poor prognosis. Caused by exposure to asbestos in the vast majority of cases, mesothelioma is especially tragic because it is preventable.

Because the cancer is aggressive, grows as small, multiple tumors, and is mostly diagnosed in later stages, mesothelioma is difficult to treat. Chemotherapy, often combined with surgery or radiation therapy, is most often used as treatment. There are very few treatments, and just a couple of chemotherapy drugs that the FDA has approved for managing mesothelioma.

Patients living with this cancer and trying to fight it often turn to clinical trials with the hope that experimental therapies will give them a chance at extending their lives. This new treatment, the NovoTTF-100L System, is one of the few new therapies that have proven to do just that. Now, thanks to the FDA’s accelerated approval, more patients with mesothelioma have access to a low-risk, safe treatment that really could help.

EPA Falls Short of Total Asbestos Ban with New Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new asbestos rule that limits asbestos imports and use but does not completely ban the material. Advocate groups are disappointed with the new rule after the head of the Agency said he would support a full ban. Asbestos is connected to serious illnesses and cancers, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.

The New Asbestos Rule

In 2016 an amendment to the Toxic Substances Control act was instituted that required the list of harmful toxic substances be regularly re-evaluated. The result of the re-evaluation of asbestos was a new rule to limit it use even further.

The EPA does not currently ban asbestos, and many were hoping that this new rule would be an outright ban. Instead, the rule states that companies have to get approval from the EPA before being able to import certain types of asbestos and products. Approval will also be required before these products can be manufactured in the U.S. The products and uses that now require approval include:

  • Adhesives, sealants, and roof coatings
  • Arc chutes
  • Beater-add gaskets
  • Cement products
  • Extruded sealant tape
  • Acetylene cylinder filler
  • Friction materials
  • Electrical paper
  • Millboard
  • Missile liner
  • Packaging
  • Pipeline wrap
  • Reinforced plastics
  • Roofing felt
  • Fuel cell and battery separators
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Textiles

The regulation also requires approval on any other building materials or use of asbestos not identified, with a few exceptions. This provides a catchall for nearly any new type of use of asbestos materials or products.

Critics Say the Rule Doesn’t Go Far Enough

While many people have applauded the rule change for placing more restrictions on asbestos use, others are disappointed. Many had hoped the rule change would include a total ban on asbestos products. Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the EPA had testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee stating that he would be committed to banning asbestos. But the new rule falls short of that commitment.

Why Asbestos is So Damaging

Asbestos is a mineral that has long been used in a number of construction and industrial applications. It comes in six different forms that can be mined from the ground. The properties of asbestos that are so useful include fire and heat resistance, flexibility, lightweight, strength, and resistance to electricity.

But exposure to asbestos fibers also causes a lot of harm. The small fibers that are inhaled or ingested by people in the vicinity of its use can trigger serious illnesses. The illness most often associated with asbestos is pleural mesothelioma, a deadly and aggressive cancer that is otherwise rare. Thousands of people have been exposed to asbestos and developed this fatal cancer as a result, which is why many are calling for a full asbestos ban.

While the new regulation from the EPA falls short of that total ban, only time will tell if the next review will be different. The next time asbestos comes up for re-evaluation, the EPA may finally decide to completely ban any import or use of this highly dangerous, carcinogenic material.

Asbestos Found in Children’s Cosmetics – Voluntary Recall Issued

Asbestos, the carcinogenic mineral known to be the leading cause of mesothelioma, has recently been identified as a contaminant in some children’s cosmetic products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning of the risks of these products and recommended that people not use them. The company, Claire’s, has since issued a voluntary recall of those products.

Child Makeup Products Contain Asbestos

The FDA announced in March that several makeup products made for kids tested positive for asbestos. The tests included three products from the accessories store Claire’s and one from the store known as Justice.

The FDA reported that it acted on information from a 2017 report of asbestos in certain products made for children. The agency began an independent analysis that recently concluded and confirmed the contamination of asbestos in these cosmetics.

Asbestos and Cancer

Asbestos is a natural mineral that was used for decades in industries like shipbuilding and construction. With a lot of unique properties, it was useful for applications that required fire and heat resistance and lightweight strength. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the researchers confirmed the link between asbestos and serious illness.

Exposure to the tiny fibers of asbestos can lead to internal damage that triggers lung cancer or mesothelioma. Any level of exposure, including small amounts in products like cosmetics, is considered unsafe and can contribute to the risk of developing cancer.

The reason that asbestos may show up in cosmetic products is that it is sometimes found contaminating sources of talc. Talc is the mineral that makes up talcum powder, a material used in nearly every type of cosmetic.

Recalls of Claire’s Products

The company Justice responded to the test results on its one product found to contain asbestos by saying that it had already been recalled. Claire’s denied the accuracy of the results, claiming there were errors in the tests and that they believe their products are safe. But, the company still decided to voluntarily recall the products:

  • Batch and lot numbers 08/17 of Claire’s Eye Shadows
  • Batch and lot numbers 07/15 of Claire’s Compact Powder
  • Batch and lot numbers 04/17 of Claire’s Contour Palette

The FDA has recommended these products not be used. Claire’s has pulled them from the shelves and asks consumers to return any they have to stores for a refund.

FDA Hopes to Improve Regulation of Cosmetics Safety

Currently there is no law in place that requires companies like Claire’s to test their products for safety. The FDA has no authority to regulate the safety of these products, but it does conduct tests and issue recommendations. The agency is pushing to update the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which has not changed since 1938. The FDA hopes changes to the law will allow the FDA to approve cosmetics before they can be sold.

Some lawmakers are also pushing for greater oversight of cosmetics. Democratic representative Debbie Dingell, a democrat from Michigan, introduced a bill after the first tests found asbestos in Claire’s products back in 2017. The bill, called the Children’s Product Warning Act of 2018 would require warnings that products have not been tested for safety or asbestos contamination, unless specific testing requirements have been met.

Until that bill becomes law, parents need to be aware that children’s products may contain harmful asbestos. Without the oversight of the FDA, it can be difficult to know what products are safe and which should be avoided, but new legislation may change that.

Cancer Vaccine Presents Promising New Treatment for Mesothelioma

Immunotherapy is a growing area of research in the treatment of all types of cancer. But for mesothelioma, which is among the most difficult cancers to manage, treat, or cure, these new therapies that harness the immune system are especially promising. They are offering new hope to patients diagnosed with this deadly, asbestos-related cancer. The most recent research is showing that a potent combination of a vaccine and chemotherapy could have good results for mesothelioma patients.

The TroVax Vaccine

A vaccine is biological material that is injected into a person to stimulate the immune system to fight back against a particular pathogen. Vaccines have traditionally been used to prevent transmission of viral diseases like the flu, but they are now being developed to treat cancer.

A cancer vaccine works by training the immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells. These cells have substances on their surfaces called antigens. Immune cells recognize antigens, but they need to be coached to do so. Vaccines that treat cancer maybe general, but they can also be made to target the specific antigens and cells in an individual patient.

A new vaccine called TroVax has been developed specifically for mesothelioma patients. It is a virus that has been genetically engineered to target a protein called 5T4 that is found in the cells of most mesothelioma tumors. Even the types of mesothelioma that are the most difficult to treat usually contain this protein.

Phase II Clinical Trial

TroVax has recently been tested in clinical trials. These are studies of new drugs or therapies in human patients. With TroVax, the results were promising. The researchers found that it could control cancer in 87 percent of participants with mesothelioma. In 17 percent of the patients, tumors were actually reduced in size.

The trial researchers did not just use the new vaccine in participants, though. The vaccine was given two weeks prior to regular chemotherapy using cisplatin and pemetrexed. As compared to patients who only received chemotherapy, those who got the vaccine as well had a greater chance of living longer. Eight patients in the study were still living after 24 months, a result significantly better than what is seen with chemotherapy treatment alone.

Improving Chemotherapy

Mesothelioma is very challenging to treat, and chemotherapy is the only approved treatment for it. Clinical trials like the one with TroVax are attempting to find and test therapies that can improve upon the success rates of traditional chemotherapy.

With mesothelioma, surgery is often not a treatment option, making chemotherapy the best and most effective choice for extending life. Even so, most patients don’t live longer than 18 months after diagnosis. By adding other kinds of therapies to chemotherapy, researchers hope to improve those odds.

The phase II clinical trial for TroVax was considered successful, but it is not the end of the research. TroVax will likely be moved into phase III trials, now that researchers know it is relatively safe and may provide a good solution for mesothelioma patients. Current patients will have to wait a while for this treatment to become approved, but in the meantime they can look for this and other clinical trials to join.