Message to Pharma: Large Trials in Mesothelioma are Possible

Dr. Lee Krugby Lee Krug, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

This week, a notification was sent to investigators on the DETERMINE Trial that accrual will be completed by the end of October. DETERMINE is an international, randomized trial comparing treatment with an immunotherapy drug called tremelimumab to treatment with placebo as second or third line therapy in patients with malignant mesothelioma. The trial opened in May, 2013, and in just 17 months will have enrolled 542 patients! This is a notable achievement. To put this in perspective, the last phase III of this magnitude testing vorinostat in a comparable group of patients (VANTAGE Trial) took 5 1/2 years to enroll 660 patients. There are differences between these two trials that could have accounted, in part, to the more rapid accrual. In DETERMINE, 2/3 of the patients receive the study drug, 1/3 get placebo, while in VANTAGE it was half and half. Also, immunotherapy drugs such as tremelimumab have garnered tremendous excitement in the oncology field due to their promising results in numerous cancers such as melanoma skin cancer and lung cancer. Yet, despite these differences, this accomplishment of completing a trial of this size in such a short period time should be a wake-up call to the pharmaceutical industry. Historically, drug companies have been reluctant to undertake large trials in mesothelioma due to concerns about feasibility and slow accrual. But this trial demonstrates the potential. Patients with mesothelioma urgently need better treatments, and with only one chemotherapy regimen approved, there is a tremendous opportunity to impact the outcomes for these patients. So here is the message to pharma: Large trials in mesothelioma are possible, and the community of patients with mesothelioma is eager to participate.

Lee M. Krug, MD, is an Associate Attending Physician in the Division of Thoracic Oncology, Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, New York where he completed a fellowship and chief fellowship in medical oncology. Dr. Krug is the Director of the Mesothelioma Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Read more about Dr. Krug’s work here.

Now Available: Watch the Philadelphia Regional Mesothelioma Conference Online

Philadelphia ConferenceThe content from the Meso Foundation’s regional conference, presented as a collaboration between the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, held in Philadelphia on September 26, 2014, is now available for viewing online on the Abramson Cancer Center website.

The conference featured area experts in the field of mesothelioma.

All sessions are now available online at OncoLink.org/Conference/Mesothelioma.

The conference was co-chaired by Mary Hesdorffer, CRNP, of the Meso Foundation, and Joseph Friedberg, MD, and Daniel Sterman, MD, of the Penn’s Mesothelioma and Pleural Program.

Among topics of discussion were clinical trial participation, latest advances in peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma, palliative care, early detection, genetics, coping with mesothelioma, and survivorship.

Speakers included:
Mary Hesdorffer, CRNP, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
Joseph Friedberg, MD, Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center
Chi Dang, MD, PhD, Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center
Richard Alexander, MD, University of Maryland
Lee Krug, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Andreas Rimner, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Daniel Sterman, MD, Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center
Suzanne Walker, CRNP, MSN, AOCN, BC, Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center
Anil Vachani, MD, Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center
Joseph Testa, PhD, Fox Chase Cancer Center
Eleanor Anderson, MD, Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center

The Meso Foundation is hosting a second regional mesothelioma conference with The University of Chicago Medicine on October 10 in Chicago. To learn more about this conference, visit curemeso.org/chicago.

Meet the Mesothelioma Experts: Stephen Isaacs Discusses New Clinical Trial Using Listeria Bacteria

Stephen IsaacsOn September 10, the Meso Foundation will interview Stephen Isaacs, the chairperson, president, and CEO of Adura BioTech, during a new installment of the Foundation’s Meet the Mesothelioma Experts live broadcast. The interview will be led by the Meso Foundation’s executive director and mesothelioma expert nurse practitioner, Mary Hesdorffer, APRN.

The focus of the interview will be Audo BioTech’s experimental therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma, known as CRS-207. CRS-207 is a weakened form of Listeria bacteria modified to reduce its ability to cause infections, but still able to stimulate the immune system.

The interview will be available live on September 10, at 1PM EST, by calling into a conference-call number. The interview is free of charge, but listeners must RSVP ahead of time by visiting curemeso.org/experts in order to receive a call-in number.

In his position at Aduro BioTech, Mr. Isaacs initiated the company’s current immunotherapy program based on attenuated strains of Listeria monocytogenes. He was responsible for recruiting key members of the current vaccine team with deep expertise in the biology of Listeria. Mr. Isaacs has published over 20 peer-reviewed scientific articles and is an inventor on over 40 issued patents.

To RSVP for the upcoming session with Stephen Isaacs or to listen to past Meet the Mesothelioma Experts sessions, visit curemeso.org/exerpts.

More Promising Mesothelioma Clinical Trials than Ever Before

Research continues to search for a cure as more mesothelioma clinical trials than ever before are underway.During the July 2014 board meeting of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, mesothelioma expert and executive director of the Meso Foundation, Mary Hesdorffer, APRN, stated that mesothelioma patients today have more promising clinical trials to choose from than ever before.

In her talk, she mentioned several trials that have been reporting increased survival and response rates. Some include novel radiation treatments, while the focus of others is within the field of immunotherapy. One trial, in particular, is looking very promising with a 69% durable response in a small group of patients. Ms. Hesdorffer stated that a new, larger trial currently underway is looking to confirm these results.

“A clinical trial is a unique opportunity for a patient to try something new and innovative that could have a very positive impact on the patient’s disease,” said Ms. Hesdorffer. “Having options is an important step forward in a disease that merely a decade ago was seen as hopeless,” she added.

Ms. Hesdorffer provides free consultations about clinical trials, as well as other issues pertaining to mesothelioma, as part of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s patient services.

“While healthcare providers aren’t able to review all clinical trial options with their patients due to time constrains, at the Meso Foundation it is our job to spend the necessary time to go through all viable options while taking into consideration insurance coverage, stage of disease, histology and readiness to participate in a clinical trial,” added Ms. Hesdorffer.

Mary Hesdorffer, MS, APRN-BC, is a nurse practitioner with over 16 years of experience in mesothelioma treatment. She is an expert in mesothelioma clinical trials and her work has been published in a variety of scientific journals.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation has recently released a downloadable brochure about mesothelioma clinical trials, which can also be requested by mail, and lists all mesothelioma clinical trials on its website.

Focus on Mesothelioma in Pharmaceutical Company Investor Meeting

Mary at Verastem, Inc.On July 10, during the research and development portion of the Verastem, Inc.’s investor meeting, Mary Hesdorffer, APRN, the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, was a featured speaker. In her talk, Ms. Hesdorffer focused on the need for clinical trials to increase the number of viable therapeutic options for mesothelioma.

According to their website, Verastem, Inc. is a “clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and developing drugs to treat cancer by the targeted killing of cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are an underlying cause of tumor recurrence and metastasis.”

“When we look at the mesothelioma patient, we have one regimen, pemetrexed and cisplatin, approved in 2003,” said Ms. Hesdorffer. “40% of the patients were found to respond to the treatment, but unfortunately, it’s not a durable response,” she added.

Ms. Hesdorffer continued her speech by focusing on the need to do more for mesothelioma patients to increase time to relapse or even to delay relapse indefinitely. She argues that keeping patients healthier for longer periods of time, improving their quality of life, and keeping them in good shape, positions them as good candidates for major breakthroughs that might develop in the future.

Mary Hesdorffer, MS, APRN-BC, is an expert nurse practitioner with over 16 years of experience in mesothelioma treatment. She is an expert in clinical trials for mesothelioma and her work has been published in a variety of scientific journals. She has spoken about mesothelioma, clinical trials, and the dire need for life-saving mesothelioma treatments to the US Congress and the UK Parliament, as well as many seminars and conferences, including the World Conference on Lung Cancer, where in 2015 she will be the program chair of the Nursing and Allied Health section.

For more information on mesothelioma clinical trials, and to download the Meso Foundation’s free clinical trials booklet, visit curemeso.org.