Immunotherapy Combined with Chemotherapy May Improve Prognosis for Mesothelioma Patients
Chemotherapy is considered the most effective single modality for the treatment of pleural mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. However, the cancer has proven to be resistant to chemotherapy, and the average prognosis for mesothelioma patients is typically less than one year. But by combining immunotherapy with chemotherapy, researchers have confirmed that they can enhance the body’s own ability to fight the cancer.
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI) reports that an international team of scientists have found that the combination therapy “enhances the immune system’s ability to find and eliminate cancer cells.” In fact, the researchers say, the combined treatment can delay tumor growth and prolong a patient’s survival.
Introducing antibodies can trigger a patient’s immune system to fight off infection, or in this case, employ the body’s own defenses to fight off cancer. According to the CRI, the introduction of antibodies against cancer represents one of the biggest successes of cancer therapy over the past 20 years. This type of treatment is known as immunotherapy.
Typically, antibodies cannot access biomarkers that identify a cell as cancerous or normal because the markers are hidden behind the cancer cell membrane. Prior to this study, the antibodies would only stay on the surface of the cells.
“The study provides proof-of-principle for a powerful new strategy that may greatly expand the arsenal of potential targets for cancer drug development and that could be broadly applicable to many different cancer types,” said Hiroyoshi Nishikawa, M.D., Ph.D., a Cancer Research Institute (CRI)-funded associate professor in the Department of Experimental Immunology at the Immunology Frontier Research Center, Osaka University, and a senior author on the paper.
For the research, the researchers from Japan, Switzerland, and the United States used an antibody against the prototypic cancer antigen NY-ESO-1. They tested the antibody against a colon cancer model engineered to “express NY-ESO-1 within its cancer cells.” Although on its own the antibody had no effect on the cancer, when combined with chemotherapy, which caused the cells to release NY-ESO-1, “they were able to significantly delay cancer progression and prolong survival.” The same held true against different tumor types and different chemotherapeutic agents.
“These studies are also representative of a growing trend in immunotherapy treatment, namely the use of chemotherapy and other standard therapies to augment anti-tumor immunity,” stated Hiroshi Shiku, M.D., chairman and professor in the Department of Medical Oncology and Immunology, Mie University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan, and a lead investigator on the study.
Although other researchers have also had significant breakthroughs, identifying an effective treatment for mesothelioma, and many other cancers, has remained elusive. Hopefully, this research will lead to a new treatment method for combating mesothelioma and other incurable cancers.
The study researchers anticipate taking the approach into clinical testing.