Researchers have recently discovered that an immunotherapy drug intended to treat melanoma has shown to be extremely powerful in stopping cancerous tumor growth in pleural mesothelioma patients.
Scientists and researchers at Pennsylvania’s University School of Medicine and physicians from Europe recently provided results of their ongoing study on Keytruda, a prescription medicine originally used for melanoma. During the study, 25 pleural mesothelioma patients who already received standard chemotherapy participated in the research. The patients had already experienced tumor growth, even after their first-line chemotherapy treatment. Keytruda was then administered to the mesothelioma patients as a second form of treatment.
According to the results, at least 7 patients showed tumor shrinkage while another 12 patients showed no tumor growth at all. Dr. Evan Alley, one of the lead researchers in the study, indicates that only 4 people out of the 25 in the study experienced growth in tumors.
“The 76 percent disease control rate is very promising and represents a signal of efficacy in the treatment of this disease. The study has provided an early glimpse of the potential benefits. Our team was also gratified that none of our patients had unexpected side effects, there were no patient deaths related to the treatment, and we managed all adverse events without discontinuing treatment.”
How is Keytruda Administered?
In the study trial, which is still ongoing, pleural mesothelioma patients receive Keytruda every 21 days for two years. The study also includes patients who experienced tumor growth after receiving chemotherapy treatment. The final results of the study are expected after May, 2018, when the study ends.
How Does Keytruda Work?
Keytruda works by stopping the gene mutations that are responsible for helping cancerous cells grow into tumors. The medication spots current tumors and increases the patient’s immune system, which helps to fight off the cancer.
Mesothelioma Still Has No Second-Line Medication Approval
It’s important to note that Keyrtuda is being used in a clinical trial, and has not yet been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In fact, there are currently no second-line treatment options for mesothelioma patients who experiences tumor growth after receiving traditional treatments.
However, if the clinical trial continues to prove successful, the researchers are hoping that the FDA will approve it for second-line treatment of mesothelioma patients. Alley also indicates that immunotherapy is a big key in the future treatment of mesothelioma patients. Unlike chemotherapy, immunotherapy comes with minimal side effects, with rashes and feelings of tiredness being the main side effects. Alley, however, states that the side effects are easy to control.
“We managed all adverse events without discontinuing treatment. It was very encouraging.”
The findings of the new research study were presented at the April 2015 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting, in Pennsylvania. Studies will continue on Keytruda, but in the meantime, there is another drug, pembrolizumab, that’s proven helpful to mesothelioma patients during clinical trials. Alley also indicated that he hopes that more clinical trials will continue for pembrolizumab.
“This study has provided an early glimpse of the potential benefits of using pembrolizumab in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. More research and trials will be occurring, which we hope will provide further grounds for optimism.”
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