Immunotherapy as a Mesothelioma Treatment

Immunotherapy is a biotherapy that uses the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.

Immunotherapy is still a developing mesothelioma treatment, and is currently only used in conjunction with more traditional treatments. According to the American Cancer Society, there are two ways to encourage the immune system to fight the progression of mesothelioma:

  • Stimulating the immune system to work harder or smarter on its own
  • The administration of immune system components, such as man-made immune system proteins, to boost immune function

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Mesothelioma Treatment with Monoclonal Antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies are the most commonly used immunotherapy to treat cancer, including mesothelioma. These antibodies are made in a lab setting using a myeloma cell, a kind of bone marrow cancer cell, combined with a mouse B cell to create a specific disease-fighting antibody. The resulting combination is called a hybridoma.

This hybridoma cell can produce many antibodies for a long period of time. The antibodies that are formed are clones of the original hybridoma cell, which is why they are called “monoclonal antibodies.” These antibodies bind to cancer cells and induce an immunological response against the target cancer cell.

Some monoclonal antibodies are made entirely from human proteins, which increase their effectiveness and safety.

Immunotherapy Mesothelioma Treatment in Clinical Trials

There have been clinical studies that have examined different intrapleural (within the pleural space) immunotherapy regimens to determine their effectiveness. However, these have been limited to small patient populations. Immunotherapies studied included:

  • gamma-interferon solution
  • increasing the daily dosage of interleukin-2  for 14 days every 4 weeks
  • interleukin-2 at high dose level for 5 days
  • interleukin-2 administered for 3 days followed by pleurectomy/decortication, with additional drug therapies thereafter
  • interleukin-2 in combination with tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes

Both gamma-interferon and interleukin-2 showed a response in a small number of patients, but their ability to increase survival has not been definitively established.

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