Researchers looking for a new mesothelioma treatment are testing the combination of a cancer vaccine called galinpepimut-S and the immune checkpoint inhibitor nivolumab. With this treatment combination, doctors hope to improve survival times in patients and find an alternative to traditional treatments. As of February 2020, this mesothelioma clinical trial has already enrolled its first patient.
Overview of New Mesothelioma Clinical Trial
Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center are beginning a new mesothelioma clinical trial. The clinical trial will test the combination of two different treatments — the cancer vaccine galinpepimut-S and the immune checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo, also known as nivolumab — on pleural mesothelioma patients.
Pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs, is the most common form of this deadly cancer.
The trial is planned to last for 16 weeks. All of the patients will receive both galinpepimut-S and nivolumab as a vaccine throughout this period.
What is the Goal of This Mesothelioma Clinical Trial?
If this mesothelioma clinical trial is successful, the combination treatment may significantly slow the spread of cancerous tumors.
The researchers chose galinpepimut-S for its ability to target the Wilms tumor 1 (WT1) protein, which is found in cancers such as mesothelioma. All of the patients selected for the trial have tested positive for the WT1 protein and have previously received a chemotherapy treatment with Alimta, another chemotherapy drug.
Nivolumab was selected because it works as an immune checkpoint inhibitor, preventing the PD-L1 protein in cancer cells from binding with the PD-1 protein on T-cells, which the body develops to fight infections.
Cancers such as mesothelioma create proteins to confuse the patient’s immune system. These proteins prevent the immune system from finding and fighting cancer cells. Nivolumab allows the patient’s immune system to better identify and attack mesothelioma cells.
Galinpepiut-S has already been assessed in a different trial. Researchers found that it allowed the patients’ immune systems to better target the WT1 protein and increased their survival rates by almost 5 months on average.
What Will Be the Outcome of This Trial?
Doctors are hopeful that this combination of drugs will help treat pleural mesothelioma, but there is no guarantee as of yet.
What sets this combination treatment apart from others is that the drugs work in tandem to strengthen the patient’s immune system so that it can target and combat cancer cells on its own.
Most researchers believe that immunotherapy treatments like these have fewer adverse side effects than traditional mesothelioma treatments like surgeries or chemotherapy.
However, immunotherapies still need to be tested in mesothelioma clinical trials before they can be deemed safe for the general public.
At the start of the trial and at the start of the second week, patients will be treated with galinpepimut-S alone. The researchers want to determine if the combination treatment can be tolerated by patients.
If more than two of the patients in the trial have severe reactions to the treatment, it will not be considered tolerable.
Joining Mesothelioma Clinical Trials
As of late February 2020, researchers are looking to recruit 10 patients from six Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center hospitals throughout New York and New Jersey for this clinical trial.
Once the patients have been selected, the trial will begin. By the end of the 16-week clinical trial period, researchers will have a good idea if the drug combination worked as intended or not.
If the combination does work effectively at treating pleural mesothelioma, then the researchers will gradually expand the tests to include more patients.
Patients interested in joining clinical trials for mesothelioma should see if they are eligible by speaking to a specialist. Other Memorial Sloan Cancer Center mesothelioma clinical trials may be available to patients.
However, some trials limit participants by location, type of mesothelioma, and other factors.