Immunotherapy as an effective treatment for mesothelioma has made international news. Ketruda, a leading brand in the fight against cancer has been attributed with successes in both England and the United States. Although immunotherapy as a cancer treatment is not entirely new, research into its use has escalated. Researchers are discovering that these drugs have the potential to directly combat cancer by using the patient’s own immune system. Some treatments are taking a combined approach. With the recent removal of restrictions by the FDA, treating mesothelioma with immunotherapy drugs and chemo holds promise. However, as with any new treatment there are drawbacks.
Experimental treatments are never without their downsides. Immunotherapy drugs like Opdivo, Keytruda, or Tecentriq are no different. Although some patients have experienced remarkable results, some are not so fortunate.
Immunotherapy drugs are often called checkpoint inhibitors. The term is derived from the nature of cancer cells which can mask their identity using proteins so that they appear normal to the body. This masking prevents the body from using the immune system to combat the cancer. Immunotherapy drugs counter this and allow the body to fight the cancerous cells.
In some cases, researchers have found that the checkpoint inhibitor drugs are causing tumors to grow more rapidly. In other cases, the immunotherapy has had no impact. Given the high cost of the treatments and the certainty of a fatal outcome, the cure is worse than the disease in these cases.
In another promising treatment known as CAR T-cell therapy, physicians remove certain cells from the patient then reengineer them to battle the cancer. Despite the potential this treatment offers, some patients experience swelling of the brain. This cerebral edema led to four fatalities in clinical trials in 2016.
Finally, in some cases the checkpoint inhibitors have allowed the body to wrongfully attack healthy cells in the body. This naturally resulted in serious complications otherwise unrelated to the cancer.
Because of the potential for successful treatment of cancers such as mesothelioma, research continues. Every researcher understands that no potential treatment is without setbacks. The three major checkpoint inhibitor drugs Opdivo, Keytruda, and Tecentriq are just the beginning.
University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland demonstrated the potential of these drugs in patients with non-small cell lung cancer. The study found that when patients were treated with PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitors prior to receiving chemotherapy, they were 30 percent more likely to respond well in the overall regimen. Thus, researchers are looking more closely at not only the combined approach, but also the strategic use of timing in the fight.
Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler are dedicated to helping families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey fight those who are responsible for their asbestos exposure. To schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call 800-369-0899 or 215-569-4000.