Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer that usually forms in the soft tissue around the lungs and affects thousands of people each year. The United States alone sees 3,000 new cases annually, and 80 percent of these cases can be attributed to asbestos exposure. Although some people have lived for several years once diagnosed with this disease, the life expectancy is usually 6-18 months.
There have been no new FDA approved treatments for this disease since 2004. Chemotherapy, the traditional treatment, is not as effective as desired.
However, an oncologist at Regions Hospital Cancer Care Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, is evaluating the effects of combining two different FDA approved drugs to treat this disease. The drugs are nivalumab (Opdivo) and ramucirumab (Cyramza). Both drugs are prescription medicines used to treat the advanced stages of various cancers.
If the combination is successful, it could mean that mesothelioma patients will no longer have to undergo chemotherapy, increasing the chances for a better-quality life.
Although the immunotherapy trial is currently at Regions Hospital, three other sites are expected to open soon. The trial will run until 2021 and enlist 35 participants who have not responded to the traditional chemotherapy treatment. Patients will receive immunotherapy intravenously every two weeks. The medications will be administered separately, but in back-to-back doses.
For treating mesothelioma, chemotherapy is, in some sense, considered the last but only resort. If a patient does not respond to chemotherapy, there are no other known treatments thought to be effective. If a patient does respond to the chemotherapy, the chemo usually stops its attack on the cancer at some point.
Unlike chemotherapy, immunotherapy does not kill cancer cells. Instead, it activates the immune system to attack the cancer, avoiding the destruction of healthy cells and tissue, which is the drawback to chemotherapy.
The benefits of this are twofold. Once the immune system is activated, it is expected to remain active in its attack on the cancer. Secondly, using the immune system to fight mesothelioma is a natural process which keeps healthy cells and tissue intact.
The side effects of immunotherapy are reportedly mild and manageable. Most are a result of an over-active immune system. The most common side-effect is an itchy skin rash, but some patients may experience:
However, patients are discouraged from “putting up” with side-effects. Instead, they should stay in touch with their doctors throughout treatment. Side-effects can be managed by immune system depressant drugs and other strategies.
If you would like more information about the immunotherapy trial for mesothelioma or filing a claim for an asbestos related illness, contact an experienced Dover mesothelioma lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. to discuss what compensation you may be entitled to for your injuries. We work with clients throughout Delaware from our offices in Wilmington and Georgetown. Contact us online or call us at 302-656-5445 to schedule a free consultation.