A Summary of Mesothelioma Studies from ASCO 2015

MicroscopeBy Hedy Lee Kindler, MD,  University of Chicago

The American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting was held from May 29 – June 2, 2015 in Chicago. About 30,000 attendees from across the world gathered to discuss the latest research advances in all types of cancer, making this the largest, most important oncology meeting of the year. This was a particularly exciting meeting for those of us interested in mesothelioma. I’ve summarized 3 of the most prominent studies below.

MAPS: A randomized trial of pemetrexed, cisplatin with or without bevacizumab. This oral abstract, presented by Dr. Gerard Zalcman on behalf of the French Cooperative Thoracic Intergroup (IFCT), was clearly the star of the show for those of us who care about mesothelioma. This study is important because it is the first randomized trial in over a decade to show that a new drug improves survival in mesothelioma patients. Bevacizumab is a monoclonal antibody that targets vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is highly expressed on mesothelioma. Think of it as a drug that targets the blood vessels that feed tumors (angiogenesis). Bevacizumab (the trade name is Avastin) is already FDA approved in multiple cancers, including colon cancer and lung cancer. In the MAPS trial, all 448 patients received standard chemotherapy with pemetrexed plus cisplatin, and half of the patients were randomized to also receive bevacizumab with each dose of chemotherapy. After completing 6 cycles of chemotherapy, patients on the bevacizumab arm also received bevacizumab by itself, every 3 weeks until their cancer started to grow. The time for cancer growth to occur (progression-free survival) was about 2 months longer in the bevacizumab arm (9.59 vs. 7.48 months). Patients treated with bevacizumab also lived almost 3 months longer (18.82 vs. 16.07 months). The addition of bevacizumab did not make patients feel worse (it did not worsen quality of life), although it did cause increased side effects such as bleeding, high blood pressure, and blood clots. Because there was an improvement in survival with the experimental treatment, it is possible that this trial could lead to FDA approval of bevacizumab for mesothelioma—stay tuned!

NGR015: Randomized trial of investigator’s choice of chemotherapy with or without NGR-hTNF. Oral presentations at ASCO are only for the large randomized trials. At most ASCO meetings there are no mesothelioma presentations; this year, there were two! The second oral presentation was by Dr. Rabab Gaafar from Cairo, Egypt on behalf of an international group of investigators. All 400 patients on this trial previously received pemetrexed. They were randomized to receive either NGR-hTNF (another drug that targets angiogenesis) or placebo (sugar water).  In addition, patients could receive chemotherapy either with gemcitabine, vinorelbine, or doxorubicin, or no chemotherapy at all. Unfortunately, the addition of NGR-hTNF to chemotherapy did not affect how long the cancer was controlled, or how long the patients lived. Data is being analyzed to see if certain characteristics might predict which patients might benefit from this drug.

Mesothelin targeted immunotherapy CRS-207, plus pemetrexed/cisplatin chemotherapy. Dr. Raffit Hassan from the National Cancer Institute updated the results of this ongoing trial in a poster presentation. Mesothelin is highly expressed on the surface of mesothelioma. CRS-207 is a vaccine that increases the immune response against mesothelin, and may enhance the activity of chemotherapy. In this study, 2 doses of CRS-207 were given before pemetrexed and cisplatin, as well as after completion of 6 cycles of chemotherapy. Encouraging activity was observed: 60% of patients had tumor shrinkage, and another 34% had disease that did not grow. Thus 94% of patients had disease that was controlled with this experimental vaccine plus chemotherapy. This is much better than would be expected with chemotherapy by itself. Based on these encouraging results, a randomized study to test this combination compared with standard chemotherapy is in development.

Hedy Lee Kindler, MD, an internationally recognized authority on the treatment of mesothelioma, is a Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Mesothelioma and Gastrointestinal Oncology Programs at the University of Chicago. Dr. Kindler is a Past President of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group. She was a member of the Science Advisory Board of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation from 2001-2014, and remains active with the Foundation.  Dr. Kindler chairs the Mesothelioma Subcommittee of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, a national cancer clinical trials group. Her research focuses on the investigation of novel agents for the treatment of mesothelioma. Patients from throughout the United States come to Dr. Kindler’s Mesothelioma Clinic at the University of Chicago for her expert care and to participate in her many clinical trials. Dr. Kindler has been listed repeatedly in Best Doctors in America, America’s Top Physicians, America’s Top Doctors for Cancer, and Best Doctors in Chicago.

Progress in Mesothelioma Research is Possible, Requires Collaboration

Researcherby Mary Hesdorffer, NP, Executive Director, Meso Foundation

Through our peer reviewed research grant program, the Meso Foundation supports the most promising research projects in the field of mesothelioma. Cutting edge research is crucial to the lives of those affected by mesothelioma, and it is the key to finding a cure for this cancer.

The Meso Foundation’s grant program has been ongoing for 14 years. Until the Foundation was founded and the program was developed, there was little movement in the field of mesothelioma research. In fact, there was no treatment yet approved for this disease. Pharmaceutical companies and Bio Tech companies were producing new agents every year, but in order for mesothelioma to be considered for these drugs, a better understanding of the disease was needed.

This year, I am pleased to announce that pharmaceutical companies have taken a big interest in mesothelioma. Companies are hosting global and national clinical trials based upon much of the groundwork that developed from the research funded through our grant program.

To date, the Meso Foundation has funded 94 projects and awarded $9 million. The funded research has taken place in 6 different countries and has resulted in 180 published pieces. We are taking mesothelioma research to the next level.

Among the research we have funded, there has been an interest in examining patients’ responses, or lack thereof, to therapies. Tumors are unique to the individual, and we know that some patients will have a very good response to a therapy and some will not. The goal is to understand why they differ in order to filter out those who will not benefit from a prescribed treatment and refer them to more appropriate therapy.

Over the past few years, I have attended a number of mesothelioma conferences, both here and abroad. I am proud to inform you that our funded researchers are the most recognized names in the field. They have made a personal commitment to both the Meso Foundation and the scientific community to continue this work.

Our current grant cycle recently ended, and we received applications from 39 research projects. After the peer review process, our Scientific Advisory Board submitted 10 projects to be considered for funding. In the current economic climate, we cannot fund all of these grants, and it is a shame that promising research will go unfunded this year. We are a small disease with little outside interest, and to remain a viable organization and continue funding research, we depend upon philanthropy.

Please consider donating to the Meso Foundation through our year-end fundraising campaign. Visit curemeso.org/savelives to support our research grant program, among our other vital programs and patient services. Your support saves lives!

Multiply Your Impact on Giving Tuesday!

GiveIn addition to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, in recent years, a new movement has emerged: Giving Tuesday. This year, we hope you can take part in Giving Tuesday through the Meso Foundation.

On Giving Tuesday, December 2nd, here’s how you can multiply your impact in our fight against mesothelioma by supporting the Meso Foundation:

1. Donate online here, or mail a check to:
Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
1317 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

2. Start an online fundraising page. You can customize a fundraising page that will share your story and explain why you support the Meso Foundation. You can consider asking for donations to be made in lieu of gifts, and we will track all donations that come in through your network in real time.

3. Send out appeal letters. We have created a generic appeal letter for you to customize with your personal story. Click here to download the sample letter. Customize it and send it to your contacts. Donations can be mailed directly to the Meso Foundation (1317 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314), and we will alert you when someone has donated in your name.

Donate

You can learn more about our year-end fundraising efforts at curemeso.org/savelives. Thank you for your participation in our year-end fundraising efforts. Your support saves lives!

Chicago Conference Photos Now Available

Panel at Chicago ConferenceThe 2014 Chicago Regional Conference on Malignant Mesothelioma was held on Friday, October 10 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. The conference was a collaborative effort between the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and The University of Chicago Medicine.

Topics of discussion were presented by area experts in the field of mesothelioma and geared towards patients, caregivers, family members, and general health practitioners. These topics included imaging, genetics, surgery, chemotherapy, novel treatments, stem cells, immunotherapy, and resources for patients and families.

The conference was chaired by Mary Hesdorffer, MS, APRN-BC, the executive director of the Meso Foundation, and Hedy Lee Kindler, MD, a Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago and Director of the mesothelioma and Gastrointestinal Oncology Programs at the University of Chicago Medicine.

All of the Meso Foundation’s photos from the Chicago conference are now available on the Foundation’s Facebook page.

For Those Attending the Chicago Regional Conference on Friday

Chicago brochure coverWe’re so happy that you will be joining us this Friday, October 10th for the Chicago Regional Conference on Malignant Mesothelioma! In this blog post, you will find all of the information you will need to prepare for the conference.

The 2014 Chicago Regional Conference on Malignant Mesothelioma will take place on October 10, 2014 at the Palmer House Hilton at 17 E Monroe Street, Chicago, IL 60603. Registration will begin at 8:30AM in the Monroe Room and the conference will begin at 9:30AM.

8:30AM Registration & Breakfast Monroe Room
9:30AM First Session Begins Monroe Room
10:40AM Break Monroe Room
12:30PM Lunch Adams Room
5:00PM Cocktail Reception Adams Room

There is no dress code for this conference, and we encourage you to dress comfortably. You may want to check the weather for the day when deciding what to wear. The forecast is currently calling for a partly cloudy day with a high of 56 degrees and a low of 47 degrees.

VIEW THE FULL AGENDA

Additional conference details can be found at curemeso.org/chicago.