This is part of a blog series comprised of live posts from the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, held March 2-March 4, 2015 in Bethesda, MD. The event was organized by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, and co-hosted with the National Cancer Institute.

In the last 5 years, immunotherapy has really broken through in the industry. Immunotherapy is a way scientists are training patients’ immune cells to recognize the characteristics of cancer cells and fight back. The immune cells, like T cells or C cells, can target tumors, fight back and limit the growth.

What’s the relevance to mesothelioma? In the tumor tissue, having immune cells present means a better prognosis for the patient. Immunotherapy tries to push the balance in your body back to equilibrium or elimination.

Dr. Dirk Brockstedt of Aduro Biotech, Inc. and his team use a bacteria called Listeria (which is made safe for clinical use) to induce immune cells, meaning that the immune cells will respond to it. Through his research, when immunotherapy was combined with chemotherapy, over 75% of patients saw a decrease or a partial response of their tumor size. Although this is incredibly early data, he and his team are excited by the results.

Although there is a very limited data set, Dr. Brockstedt and his team hope to open these results up to a larger clinical trial. They need to ask their collaborators who understand the current treatments. If they are also excited by the results, the group would then take it to a large panel of experts to gauge the level of interest and opinions of the industry leaders.

Keep your eyes open. Many experts at the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma have said that immunotherapy could be the 4th pillar (in conjunction with radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery) as an effective cancer treatment in the next 5 years.