Researchers have been investigating the viability of immunotherapy as a therapeutic strategy for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. While immunotherapy is an important emerging strategy for many types of cancer, results are still inconclusive as to whether it will become a viable approach for mesothelioma.
Researchers at the University of Salford in the United Kingdom have published a new report calling the use of immunotherapy drugs “largely questionable” for pleural mesothelioma treatment. While the clinical efficacy of these drugs has been called into question, researchers have also expressed concern over the safety and tolerability of drugs such as tremelimumab in mesothelioma patients. Tremelimumab is an immune checkpoint inhibitor designed to interrupt a mechanism that helps mesothelioma cells avoid detection by the immune system. By binding to a protein called CTLA-4, tremelimumab helps the immune system recognize and kill mesothelioma cells.
The problem is, in malignant mesothelioma this blocking mechanism is only moderately effective. Multiple studies have shown mixed results. A recent meta-analysis of tremelimumab studies concluded that the drug tended to trigger immune related adverse events in mesothelioma patients. These events led the Salford team to express concern over the drugs’ cost-benefit ratio, and observe that, at the very least, tremelimumab should not be used to fight mesothelioma on its own. An Australian study published in the fall of 2016 called the recent studies on immune checkpoint inhibitors disappointing and also recommended that the drugs be used in combination with other treatment options.
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