Examining Current Clinical Trials and Mesothelioma Treatment Trends

Watch Mary Hesdorffer, the Meso Foundation’s executive director and mesothelioma expert, in this opening presentation at the 2015 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma. In this video, she discusses the state of mesothelioma research and treatment options. Her discussion begins with a focus on clinical trials. With 92 open clinical trials for mesothelioma, of which 55 include some form of pharmacologic or radiotherapy intervention, mesothelioma research has never looked more hopeful.

Currently, research is focusing beyond chemotherapy, taking a look at how manipulation of the immune system can advance treatment options. SS1P, an immunotoxin, illustrates this new area of research. Other trials are looking at modulating the immune system with t-cells in hopes of starting immune system surveillance that will destroy the bad cells.

Available clinical trials now include vaccine treatments, chemotherapy, and, sometimes, a combination of both. For example, the CRS-207 trial combines a mesothelin-targeting vaccine with traditional chemotherapy.

Various new trials are also in the works. Verastem, a pharmaceutical company, is beginning a trial that uses an agent to target cancer stem cells to delay the time to progression after having a response or stabilization with first-line therapy.

Another focus in mesothelioma research is targeting angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is the ability for cancer cells to find new blood supplies so they can continue growing. This type of research is working on ways to cut off this blood supply.

Mary notes that the face of cancer treatment is changing, and it is important that patients are healthy enough to receive new treatments. When considering a new clinical trial or treatment, a patient must consider the impact it can have on their health, how it will impact their cancer, and whether or not the new drugs will prevent them from being able to try other treatments in the future.

To watch Mary Hesdorffer’s full presentation, click here.

Preliminary Results of Immunotherapy Drug Show Promise for Mesothelioma Patients

VaccineThe Meso Foundation is optimistic about the results of the Phase 1b trial of pembrolizumab for PD-L1-positive advanced solid tumors, which were announced at the most recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

Dr. Evan W. Alley, MD, PhD, co-director of the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program, reported the results of a Phase 1b trial of pembrolizumab for PD-L1-positive advanced solid tumors at the AACR Annual Meeting on Sunday. Of the twenty-five patients with mesothelioma who were treated as part of the study, 28% experienced tumor shrinkage and another 48% had prolonged stabilization of their disease. The drug was also demonstrated to be safe, with no patients discontinuing treatment as a result of side-effects.

”These results are quite exciting, and provide further proof of principal that this class of drugs, known as checkpoint inhibitors, are effective for mesothelioma,” noted Dr. Lee M. Krug, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Meso Foundation. “Hopefully this study will encourage much larger trials in this disease.”

Pembolizumab is an antibody that blocks the inhibitory effects of PD-1, thereby boosting the immune system’s activity. In cancer, high tumor expression of PD-L1 is linked with more aggressive disease and a poorer prognosis, and PD-L1 expression was used to select patients for this study. PD-1 inhibitors have already shown great promise in melanoma, renal cell carcinoma and lung cancer, demonstrating both tumor shrinkage and durable responses. Pembrolizumab (KeytrudaTM) is FDA approved for the treatment of advanced melanoma.

In May, the Meso Foundation will be hosting Dr. Alley in an interview, as part of the Meet the Mesothelioma Experts series. More information about the series is available at curemeso.org/experts.

Mesothelioma Researcher Receives Prestigious Grant from Department of Defense

Marjorie ZaudererMarjorie Zauderer, MD, is a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center specializing in the care of lung cancer and mesothelioma patients, and serves as a member of the Meso Foundation’s Science Advisory Board. Recently, Dr. Zauderer was granted the Career Development Award to fund her mesothelioma research project.

Dr. Zauderer received the Career Development Award for her current research project involving the role of the BAP 1 gene (BRCA associated protein-1) in mesothelioma. Inherited mutations in the BAP1 gene have been shown to predispose patients to malignant pleural mesothelioma. “A better understanding of this gene could mean a better understanding of mesothelioma and how it develops in patients,” Zauderer states.

Dr. Zauderer began working on this project three years ago and has been gathering specimens and samples throughout this time. She predicts that enough samples will be collected within the next year or two to begin analysis that could yield significant insights and statistics. Her goal in 3 to 5 years is to have a plausible drug that has already completed phase 1 testing or is ready to begin phase 1 testing in clinical trials.

In an interview, Dr. Zauderer expressed her passion for her work, citing her many college application essays that she recently came across. “All my applications were about how I wanted to use genetics to help medicine. 20 years later, that’s actually what I do,” Zauderer states.

The Career Development Award provides funding from the Department of Defense to support a specific research project. Funding is provided to the selected project over a three year period, during which certain research components must be met and specific goals achieved. Mesothelioma is a disease of interest to the Department of Defense, as an estimated one third of mesothelioma patients either served in the Navy or worked in shipyards.

Learn more about Marjorie Zauderer at curemeso.org.

2015 Symposium to be Co-Hosted with the NCI and Held at the NIH

International Symposium on Malignant MesotheliomaThis year, the Meso Foundation has partnered with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to co-host the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma. As a result, the conference will be hosted on the grounds of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. The NIH is one of the world’s foremost medical research centers.

This conference is geared to attendees from all walks of life, including patients and their families, advocates, medical professionals, those who have lost loved ones to mesothelioma, and scientists. The Symposium provides a unique setting for everyone in the meso community to come together, learn about mesothelioma and its treatments from renowned experts, build friendships and socialize.

The Symposium will be held from March 2nd through 4th at the NIH and the Hyatt Regency Bethesda. Daytime Symposium sessions will be held on the NIH campus, while evening dinners will be held at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda. The NIH campus is located only a few minutes away from the hotel, and we will provide shuttles between the two locations in the morning and afternoon of March 2nd and 3rd. Symposium attendees can also travel between the locations via Metro (stops are convenient to both the hotel and the NIH) or by taxi.

Register

Sessions will cover a range of topics about pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, treatments, clinical trials, surgery, prevention, as well as support groups, well-being and community sessions. A mesothelioma Advocacy Day will be held on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, March 4th. View the full Symposium agenda here.

In addition to our science and treatment sessions for the general public, this year’s Symposium includes a two-day special session for scientists and medical professionals. Nearly 100 mesothelioma experts will come together to share their work, and find collaborative opportunities, in an effort to speed up mesothelioma advances. The scientists and medical professionals in attendance will be available during sessions common to both groups, such as lunches and dinners, to answer any questions and to socialize. A recap and “translation” of the sessions for scientists and medical professionals will be presents on Tuesday evening in the main Symposium session for the general public.

It is a privilege and an honor to host our Symposium on the campus of the National Institutes of Health, and we hope to see you all at the event. Learn more about the Symposium at curemeso.org/symposium or register here.

Free Live Stream of the Symposium Available in March

Symposium Live StreamIf you are unable to attend the Meso Foundation’s 2015 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma in person, you will still be able to view many of the sessions online as they happen. The free live stream is a real-time broadcast of the March 3rd sessions of the Symposium. Only a computer or smartphone/device and an internet connection are needed to access the live stream.

No registration or payment is required to view the Symposium live stream. On March 3rd, you simply need to visit curemeso.org/symposium and follow the link to the live stream to begin watching. The Symposium is a unique event that covers important treatment information and research advances presented by mesothelioma experts. We understand that many mesothelioma patients are unable to travel for health reasons, so the live stream is available to ensure the community can still access the information.

The Symposium is geared to attendees from all walks of life, including patients and their families, advocates, medical professionals, those who have lost loved ones to mesothelioma, and scientists. Sessions will cover a range of topics about pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, treatments, clinical trials, surgery, prevention, as well as support groups, well-being and community sessions. The full agenda can be viewed here.

For more information about the Symposium, visit curemeso.org/symposium.