New treatments are providing hope for individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare, aggressive cancer linked to asbestos exposure. The treatments are for individuals living with pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of the disease.
Pleural mesothelioma is very difficult to treat because it does not grow as a solid tumor. Although it can be controlled, it cannot be cured. Of those individuals diagnosed with the disease, more than 50% have a mutation called BAP1.
Meanwhile, approximately 40% of patients with the disease have NF2-deficient malignant pleural mesothelioma. These individuals are generally treated through a combination of standard-of-care options, including surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation.
Individuals with pleural mesothelioma have a poor prognosis – the life expectancy after diagnosis is one to four years.
How do the Treatments Work?
Four drugs show promise in treating pleural mesothelioma: tazemetostat, IK-930, and a combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab.
A drug called tazemetostat may be effective for many people diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. A phase 2 trial found that the drug could control the disease in individuals who have the BAP1 mutation. The drug was given to 74 people with the BAP1 mutation who had received chemotherapy, but whose cancer had still progressed. The study showed that tazemetostat controlled the disease in 51% of patients who received it. According to the oncologist who led the clinical trial, the treatment stabilized disease or decreased the size of the cancer for more than six months following treatment.
A drug known as IK-930 has recently been given a fast-track designation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for potential use in patients with unresectable, NF2-deficient malignant pleural mesothelioma. Fast-track designations speed up the process by which the FDA reviews a treatment that shows promise. For patients who have unresectable diseases, surgery is not an option.
IK-930 is being studied in a Phase 1 clinical trial as a monotherapy in patients with advanced solid tumors for whom there are no other treatments available.
About the combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab
A new immunotherapy treatment that combines nivolumab and ipilimumab is showing promise as an alternative to chemotherapy, with clinical trials showing 8% more people surviving with mesothelioma after three years, and 13% more showing their cancer had stopped progressing in the same time period.
The new therapy was approved as a mesothelioma treatment by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in England. In the United States, the FDA approved the combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab as a first-line treatment for patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer in May 2020.
What is the Link Between Asbestos and Pleural Mesothelioma?
Pleural mesothelioma is linked to asbestos exposure, often as a result of workplace exposure. Exposure occurs when airborne asbestos fibers break down into tiny particles. When inhaled, the particles settle in the lungs, causing scarring and inflammation that can lead to cancer.
What are the Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma?
Pleural mesothelioma can take decades to appear after exposure to asbestos. The primary signs are shortness of breath and ongoing chest pain. Other symptoms include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Lower back pain
- Swollen face and arms
- Unexplained weight loss
Pleural mesothelioma increases the risk of pleural effusion, which occurs when fluid builds up between the lungs and chest wall.
Who is Most at Risk?
Workers in the following professions are most at risk for developing mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure:
- Automotive, factory and railway workers
- Building renovators and demolition crews
- Construction workers and builders (including shipbuilders)
- Insulation manufacturers and installers
How We Help Victims of Asbestos ExposureSeek justice with the help of our experienced asbestos attorneys. For over 20 years, our asbestos law firm has represented individuals like you, affected by asbestos exposure, aggressively fighting the corporate giants responsible for their dangerous products. If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos or suffer from a disease caused by asbestos like mesothelioma, we can help.