Opdivo, an FDA-approved immunotherapy medication for non-small cell lung cancer, may be beneficial for mesothelioma patients. Although its not currently used for mesothelioma treatment, its results in clinical trials shows such strong progress that additional immunotherapy drugs for cancer are slated to follow.
According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the medication was given a grant after it showed to have a powerful effect on stopping the spread of cancer. In fact, per Dr. Raymond Wong, of the Pacific Heart & Lung Institute of Los Angeles, Opdivo may be a breakthrough medication that changes the way cancer patients are treated.
“It’s the biggest breakthrough for lung cancer in recent history. It could signal a paradigm shift in the way many cancers are treated, including mesothelioma one day.”
However, Opdivo, also called nivolumab, is only approved for non-small cell lung cancer at this time. This doesn’t mean, however, that mesothelioma patients will not have access to it. If a doctor confirms that other treatments aren’t working and/or that Opdivo is not more harmful to the patient than mesothelioma itself, the medication may approved through the FDA expanded access exception rules.
In addition, any medication approved for the expanded access exception must show that it will be beneficial for use in certain diseases that it was not originally approved for.
Currently, numerous clinical trials are underway to test the effective of Opdivo with different types of cancer. A clinical trial for its effectiveness with mesothelioma has yet to be scheduled, but previous results indicate that the drug helped melanoma, an aggressive type of skin cancer.
Dr. Richard Pazdur of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research recently stated that the current clinical trials will open the doors for more patients who suffer from various types of cancer.
“This approval will provide patients and health care providers with knowledge of the survival advantage associated with Opdivo and will help guide patient care and future lung cancer trials.”
Although Opdivo is the first immunotherapy drug approved for non-small cell lung cancer and is currently only approved for melanoma, the clinical trials have also shown promise for other types of cancers, including neck, head, and bladder cancer.
Other Immunotherapy Drugs to Follow
It’s rare for an immunotherapy medication to show such strong promise in cancer treatment. In fact, it’s been more than a decade since this type of medication has been FDA-approved to treat cancer.
Yet, with the promising clinical trial results, other companies, such as Merck & Co., are expected to release their own immunotherapy durg: Keytruda.
Similar to Opdivo, Keytruda works by targeting a certain PD-1 protein in the body that attacks the immune system. In combination with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, Wong believes that immunotherapy treatment will show to be the best way to attack cancer and show the strongest improvement in patients.
“It [immunotherapy] is the hottest topic in cancer care today. I’m not a fortune teller, but we thought at the time [of my thesis] that it would eventually be a breakthrough. The most effective immunotherapy approaches might integrate multimodality regimens that also abrogate immunosuppressive circuits.”
For more information about current clinical trials, be certain to speak with your physician. Although, as aforementioned, there are currently no clinical trials for immunotherapy drugs and mesothelioma, this could very well change in the future.
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